The unsung dandelion

Jerry Apps

The dandelion is one of the earliest flowers to appear in the spring. But are they applauded? No, they are dug up, stomped on, cut off, sprayed with weed killers, and otherwise maligned as a weed for the keepers of perfect lawns. So I did a bit of research about this early bloomer.

The dreaded dandelion is a hero in the plant world.

Did you know that the dandelion is in the sunflower family, and is native of Greece?

That its name comes from the French dent de lion (lion’s tooth)—a reference to the jagged margins of its leaves? That it grows almost anywhere in the world where there is a bit of soil and sunlight? That it is rich in nutrients—potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, as well as vitamins, especially vitamins C and B? Put dandelion leaves in a salad. They are best harvested in the spring when the leaves are young and less bitter.

That the early colonists brought the dandelion to North America, as they were aware of its many medicinal qualities? The juice extracted from the stem and leaves supposedly will eradicate warts, soothe calluses and bee stings.

Other purported medicinal uses include lowering blood pressure and providing relief from rheumatism and arthritis. The entire plant is important as a general tonic.

That dandelion blossoms make tasty wine? The plant has also been used as a dye, yielding a purple color.

So, there it is. The dreaded dandelion is a hero in the plant world.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: When is a weed not a weed?

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to