Leave the Dandelions Alone!

Dandelion

It is always a puzzle as to why people hate Dandelions. They are very pretty wildflowers that are so important to insects – bees, hoverflies and other pollinators. For early-emerging bees they provide a lifeline of nectar when flowers are so scarce in early spring. A lawn without Dandelions is a dead place for wildlife, with no benefit at all for local biodiversity.

Dandelions are hardy perennial wildflowers, growing to about 12 inches in height. Their bright yellow flowers and rosette of notched leaves makes them easily identifiable. The flowers open in the morning and close at night and, undisturbed, Dandelions can live for 13 years or more – that’s a lot of nectar for a lot of insects! The leaves were deemd to look like lions’ teeth, hence the plant’s name – “dent le lion”. In Germany the plant was known as “lowenzahn”, which also means lion’s tooth.

Dandelions represent the three celestial bodies – the sun (flowers), the moon (the fluffy seedhead) and the stars (the individual seeds). A common childhood game is to blow the seeds from the seedhead (clock) and make a wish as they blow away.

Dandelion clock

Dandelions have been almost revered in the past – before lawns they were appreciated for their food provision, medicine and magic properties. Indeed, the young leaves can be used in salads and the roots to make a kind of coffee. They are a source of vitamins, calcium, iron and potassium, and were used in folk medicine to treat all sorts of ailments, eg, dandruff, toothache, sores, fever, depression and as a diuretic (but, of course, always consult a qualified herbalist before taking!).

Bug on dandelion

It may surprise you to know that Dandelions are actually beneficial to lawns! Their deep tap roots pull nutrients from the soil and makes them available to the grass and other plants too. It is in a way criminal to wildlife to use herbicides to kill dandelions. Insects need them as a valuable nectar source. Insects are in deep decline – indeed, it has been shown that “over 40% of all insects are declining, and a third are endangered. The data suggests that the rate of decline is at least 2.5% per year.” (https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2019/february/the-world-s-insect-populations-are-plummeting-everywhere-we-look.html). There are millions of gardens in the UK, just imagine how much help they could give wildlife if they all let their Dandelions grow!

The use of pesticides, herbicides and so on are lethal to wildlife. They are used to kill “weeds” but these so-called weeds are wildflowers that are important to wildlife. Kill them off and you are depriving wildlife of habitat and food and, in turn, you are affecting bird populations who rely on these insects (and seeds of these “weeds” for food.. Pesticides turn areas that would flourish with biodiversity into green deserts where only grass grows. They also linger in the soil for ages, keeping their carcinogenic properties going.

So have a little think before you mow your lawn or grab the weedkiller – think about the consequences of those actions. Get rid of your weedkiller, mow a bit less often and you will be rewarded with a more diverse and beneficial environment in your garden for wildlife.

Bee on dandelion
dandelion field

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