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Dandelion

Dandelion flowersPlant Description: This perennial herb is distinguished by its basal leaves with jagged edges, hollow stems that are leafless and terminate in a single yellow flower, and fluffy white seed heads. At maturity, all plant parts exude a milky juice if cut. Reproduce is by wind-blown seeds. Also, plants regenerate from root fragments.

Dandelion young rosetteThe species has a deep, thick, branched taproot that exudes a milky juice if cut. Seed leaves (cotyledons) are pale, dull, yellowish-green, oval, and have smooth edges. Young leaves form a basal rosette and are oval to oblong with long hollow leaf stalks (petioles). Stems are erect, 2 to 12 inches tall, hollow, leafless, filled with milky juice, and terminate in a single flower head. Leaves are basal, bright green, thin, hairless, between 3 to 10 inches long, and jagged around the edges with lobes or teeth of various sizes and shapes. The terminal lobe is usually largest and lobes become smaller and more deeply divided toward the leaf base. Dandelion seed headLeaves are alternate (1 leaf per node), which is difficult to distinguish because stems are so compressed that nodes are generally at or below the soil surface. The leaf base tapers into a hollow, short petiole. Mature leaves exude a milky juice when cut or broken. The bright yellow, 1 to 2-inch-wide flowers form at the tips of long, hollow, flower stems. Flowers mature into fluffy white seed heads.

Young leaves of dandelion can be eaten as salad greens, flowers are used to make wine, and dandelion coffee is made from roasted roots. Although leaves become bitter and unpalatable with age, they usually regain some of their sweetness after the first frost. Dandelions contain vitamins A and C in relatively large quantities.

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