There seems to be a prevailing prejudice in human nature against things that are common and prolific; and it is this prejudice which has given rise to common sentiments against dandelions . This plant has obvious value, and yet is being rejected for no reason, really, other than its commonality.
The dandelion, a plant of the genus Taraxacum, is a small plant with long, toothed green leaves growing out of the base. The stem is crowned with a bright yellow bloom, soft and fluffy to the touch. Towards the terminus of their lifespan, the head becomes a white sphere of seeds which are carried off by the wind. They propagate easily and without restriction into almost all types of terrain and climate.
It is an inexplicable fact that this sprightly herb is an object of scorn to many. The Pequod Lake Conifer & Gazette carried an ample column on “The Problem of Dandelions and How to Expunge Them.” In this article, they are merely continuing their long history of kowtowing to the pickiness of suburbanites, and to the interests of the lawn-maintenance unions who make fat profits in spraying mephitic toxins on peoples’ grass. It is lamentable that a publication with the means and readership of the Conifer should be misled into encouraging the use of such unnatural measures, all to obtain what they call “the look and feel of a lush, natural lawn.” Let us take this quote in two parts.
First of all, what in the nation do they mean by ‘look and feel’? Do they really mean to imply that a lawn without dandelions ‘looks and feels’ better than one that has them? By what standard? We say, by the artificial and historically anomalous standard of city-folk and suburbanites.
Second, by ‘a lush, natural lawn’ they imply a claim that a lawn whose vegetational diversity has been artificially destroyed is the paragon of ‘naturalness.’ This is obviously self-contradictory.
Dandelions do a lawn good; they spread nobly about, beautifying their surroundings, punctuating them with universally complementary spots of bright yellow. Indeed, the brightness of the dandelion is an index to the health of the soil. Furthermore, talking of health, the Dandelion is a study on the subject of cheerfulness and health. It is a little-known fact that every part of the dandelion is not only edible, but useful for a variety of medicinal applications. The very name of its genus, Taraxacum, is derived from the Greek taraxos + akos, ‘remedy for disorders.’ Probably, those who now wage chemical warfare on their lawns little know what a bountiful harvest of tea and salad ingredients they are persecuting. Give them a glass of dandelion wine rather than the cheap grocery-store stuff they drink now; maybe they will waste less money on killing dandelions and rendering their lawns hostile to animals & children.
But more than all this, there is something about the nature of this sunny perennial that ought to be more widely appreciated. It is small, cheerful and tough, the floral counterpart of the Chickadee. It is at once a picture of the transience of life and an incarnate testimony against the vanity of overparticular lawn care. Ah, the Dandelion, model to its inward greatness, like little body with a mighty heart; we ask, with apologies to the Bard, what mights’t thou do that honour would thee do, were all thy owners kind and natural!
Our great state of Minnesota has the inexplicable feature of having an official State Mushroom (the Morel, or Morchella esculenta) but no State Herb; there is consequently a grass-roots effort (ha) underway to elect the humble and oft-noted Dandelion into this position. We do of course have a State Flower, the pink-and-yellow ladyslipper, but these are seldom seen and hardly as useful as the Dandelion. We hope that this matter may be taken in hand when the Legislature next convenes; in the long run, however, nothing will be acceptable short of the utter erasure of these meaningless stigmas.
“Applaud, friends, the comedy is over.”
—Ludwig van Beethoven, last words