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Summer Issue

Biology of Dandelions





A beautiful Dandelion
A beautiful flower, or not?

By Johnny Caryopsis

Dandelion. Such a simple, beautiful sounding word: "dandy lion". And yet, a word capable of conjuring up outright hatred and loathing, at least among gardeners and fanciers of pure green lawns. There is likely no other plant in North America so hated and yet so successful. Yes, successful.

In biological terms Dandelions are wildly successful. This introduced weed has spread to vast regions of the continent and occurs in astounding numbers. In Darwinian terms that's successful. Dandelions are so successful that they can dominate and displace much of the local native flora. They're a lot like us, and by us I mean the descendants of the European immigrants who now dominate the human population of North America. Never thought of yourself in terms of being a weed before, have you?

Perhaps it's because we see Dandelions as a real competitor for the space we so want to control and dominate that we hate them so. Personally, I think our hatred of Dandelions is a cultural thing, passed on from one generation to the next, simply because it's what our parents did. (That's how fear of snakes and bugs gets transmitted from generation to generation, too. That's how "culture" works, we do what our parents did.) Whatever the reason, this is a plant responsible for a multi-billion dollar a year war waged with chemicals and motorized weaponry (lawn mowers and trimmers). Millions of people ardently wage that war year after year in the pursuit of the perfect lawn.

A beautiful Dandelion
The future?

Can we continue (never mind, win) the war on Dandelions in our urban spaces? More and more jurisdictions are choosing to ban pesticide use for cosmetic purposes, and that's probably a good thing for the long-term health of our kids, but I'm convinced that the outcome of these decisions will be tough to live with for some. Without herbicides, lawns will be full of Dandelions, it's just that simple. No one has yet found any biological means of controlling this species. Proper lawn care practices can help to minimize Dandelion infestations, but they cannot eliminate them. People are going to have to learn to love their enemy, or least tolerate them, or they're going to be driven nuts.

Me, I'm at peace with Dandelions. In my small urban yard I still remove what I consider to be excess numbers of large Dandelions. I spend a few hours every spring digging out the bigger ones with my weed poker, but I know I can never defeat them entirely. And I have developed a grudging respect for a living thing that continues to thwart all our best efforts to destroy it. Long live Dandelions! (If you can't beat'em, join 'em!)

I hope you'll continue on and read more about Dandelions, take the link below.

Yikes, where'd all those ads for herbicides come from? Well, in case you didn't know how Google Ads work, here's a little primer. We run the Google Adsense program on NatureNorth to make a couple of bucks (it pays our server costs and buys a cup of coffee every day), plus it tells us what people are viewing on the site. We try to do more of the kind of articles people like. The ads that appear on a given page are chosen by computers (All hail our computer over-lords!) based on the content of that page. If the word "Dandelion" pops up lots on a page, then, of course, you're going to see ads for ways and means of killing dandelions, because that's what everyone wants to do, right?

The other way ads are chosen is by what YOU have been seeing and doing on-line. That's right, the computers at Google are watching you! If you're on websites that have Google Ads or if you've been using Google to search for something, then they've taken note of that, and the ads you see will be slanted towards those topics. The reality is, we at NatureNorth have no way of telling what ads you are seeing on a given page. So if you do see ads on our site that you find in any way offensive, please let us know (Email NatureNorth), but more importantly, tell Google, they put them there.

Carry on for more on the Biology of Dandelions!

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