BY : Rhiannon Nevinczenko

With spring in full swing and summer on the way, and of course depending on your location, you may begin to see these familiar yellow blemishes marring your otherwise pristinely-manicured lawn. Before you grab your weeding gloves and herbicide, consider:
1) They are some of the first plants to flower as things warm up. Because of this, they’re often the first and only source of food for pollinators waking up from the winter. By tolerating dandelions, you invite butterflies, support bees, and ultimately do biodiversity a favor (including those birds you’d like to see visiting your garden).
2) Dandelions are not just food for pollinators, but for people, too! Every part of the dandelion, save the stem, can be prepared. There are a range of ways to use them – leaves can spice up a salad or a sandwich, roots can serve in coffee substitutes, and the flowers can be used to make wine. Each of these parts has featured in teas, as well. Additionally, dandelions are a great source of several vital nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, such as vitamins A, B, C, D, and K, antioxidants, iron, zinc, potassium, folate, and calcium.
3) They were once valued for their beauty, as well as their uses in food and medicine. In fact, gardeners would once display them at county fairs. They are related to asters (such as daisies), dahlias, and marigolds. You may be able to see the family resemblance by looking closely at their petal shape and pattern!
4) Dandelions only became a “weed” when they were no longer cultivated and valued. A weed is simply a wild plant growing in competition with cultivated plants – not necessarily a harmful plant. This shift from appreciation to contempt happened as people would have tightly manicured lawns as a show of wealth – meaning that they could afford to buy food, rather than grow it. Consider allowing dandelions to brighten and decorate your space, thus supporting pollinators and biodiversity. Perhaps look into some dandelion recipes and cook yourself up a treat as well!
Photo credit: Amoldius via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5.

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