Dandelion, Friend or Foe?

Dandelions, Taraxacum officinale Weber.
Dandelions
Taraxacum officinale Weber
Copyright © 2002 Roger Banner, Intermountain Herbarium, USU
Popping up here and there seemingly as soon as you turn away, dandelion persists and as it grows bigger, it’s large taproot becomes many a gardener’s foe. With a slight change in perspective, however, gardeners could expand their yield and embrace the ever persistent pioneer plant: dandelion.

First, why does dandelion pop up so quickly in the garden? There are two key reasons you may find yourself battling dandelion in your garden: 1. It is trying to stabilize and cover the disturbed and exposed soil in an attempt to restore and rebuild fertility, 2. It’s deep taproot serves as a nutrient accumulator, where it pulls nutrients from deeper in the soil and brings them to the surface for other plants and microbial life to use. Why does this happen? Conventional lawns and gardens mimic immature ecosystems and as a result, are usually dominated by early succession plants.

In the words of permaculture designer Toby Hemenway, “The bare earth and disturbed soil in a vegetable garden or under clean-cultivated shrubs sing a siren song to weeds, which eagerly cover naked ground, pull nutrients out of underlying mineral and rock, and prepare the locale for more mature ecosystem such as shrubland and forest. A pure expanse of well-watered grass is aching, in natures scheme, for a blitzkrieg from seedlings and shrubs or, at the very least, a spike in diversity via fast-growing annual weeds.” So, the next time you find dandelion or other weeds in your lawn and/or garden, remember, they are working to diversify the space and help mend the soil that has been disturbed.

But for the gardener, it gets better than just understanding dandelion’s role in the succession of soil because many parts of dandelion are not just edible, but delicious! The common weed has been used for centuries in traditional medicine practices worldwide, as a restorative tonic, edible food, and in herbal wines and beers. Dandelion is extremely versatile in the kitchen and can add zip to any meal. Buds and leaves are best when picked young. The leaves are edible both raw and cooked; try them tossed in your favorite stir-fry, salad, or soup. Flowers are great frittered or used in dandelion wine, while the roots are often steeped for tea or pickled. Dandelion root tea is a common health supplement used mainly for its mild diuretic properties. When roasted, dandelion root makes for a cleansing, caffeine-free beverage that can serve as a coffee substitute given a mild relation to coffee in taste.

And the icing on the cake? Dandelions are chock full of health benefits. They are rich in vitamin-A, C, iron, calcium, detoxifiers and can aid with bone health, liver disorders, diabetes, urinary disorders, skin care, acne, weight loss, cancer, jaundice, gall bladder disorders, anemia, and high blood pressure.

So the next time you see dandelion pop up in your garden, don’t just weed it, eat it!

For Utah State University Extension Sustainability, this is Roslynn Brain.

Credits:

Photos: Courtesy and Copyright 2002 Roger Banner, Intermountain Herbarium, USU
Text: Roslynn Brain, Utah State University Extension Sustainability

Sources & Additional Reading:

Holly Strand, Dandelions, WildAboutUtah.org, April 21, 2011, https://wildaboututah.org/dandelions/

Jack Greene, Pioneer Day Edible Native Plants, WildAboutUtah.org, July 13, 2015, https://wildaboututah.org/pioneer-day-edible-native-plants/

Hinkamp, Dennis, “Take the Bite Out of Lion’s Teeth (Dandelions)” (2001). All Archived Publications. Paper 885. http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/extension_histall/885
http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/pub__5928742.htm

Dandelion, Range Plants of Utah, USU Extension, http://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/htm/dandelion

Lesica, Peter, Consider the Dandelion Before You Dig, Page 8, Contained in SegoLily, Newsletter of the Utah Native Plant Society, March 2011 (volume 34 number 2) http://www.unps.org/segolily/Sego2011MarApr.pdf

Three-leaf Sumac

Three-Leaf-Sumac Rhus-trilobata, Photo courtesy Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com, Licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Three-Leaf-Sumac Rhus-trilobata
Photo courtesy Hansen’s Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Many think of the desert as a hot, dry, barren, and unforgiving place. However, Utah’s deserts are chock full of interesting and diverse plants and animals! One such plant, which grows throughout much of Utah, is rhus trilobata or three-leaf sumac.

Three-leaf sumac is a widespread deciduous shrub in the Rhus genus, meaning “with three leaflets,” or “trifoliate leaves.” Others in this genus include Rhus aromoatica and the infamous western poison oak. The leaves of this shrubby-type plant are toothed, feel stiff and they give off quite a strong scent when crushed. The strong smell of crushed three-leaf sumac leaves has earned it the nickname “skunkbush” as well as “ill-scented sumac.”

Three-leaf sumac is a low spreading, many-branched deciduous shrub, usually no more than 3 feet high but spreading as much as 8 feet wide. The small, trifoliate leaves and the branches are fuzzy. Given its many branches, three-leaf sumac provides both nesting material and structure for native bees. Flowers are yellowish and found in clustered spikes. They are followed by bright crimson to reddish, sticky berries. The fall foliage adds an extra pop of color to the landscape.

Three-Leaf-Sumac Rhus-trilobata, Photo courtesy Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com, Licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Three-Leaf-Sumac Rhus-trilobata
Photo courtesy Hansen’s Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Historically, three-leaf sumac has been used for medicinal and other purposes. The bark can be chewed or brewed into a drink for cold symptoms. Flexible branches were traditionally used for twisting into basketry and rugs. In fact, three-leaf sumac was a close contender to willow in desirability for basket-making. This common use of the plant earned it another nickname of “basketbush.”

My favorite part of three-leaf sumac, however, are the slightly hairy and sticky berries. Although historically eaten for gastrointestinal pain and toothache, the berries have a delicious sour flavor and can be eaten plain or used in oatmeal, ice cream, steeped in tea, or soaked in cold water to make a beverage similar to lemonade. These berries are high in vitamin C and have earned three-leaf sumac the additional nicknames of “sourberry” “lemonade bush” and “lemonade berry.” Other nicknames for this multi-purpose plant include squawbush, desert sumac, or scented sumac.

Regardless of which nickname you choose for three-leaf sumac, give the berries a try and see for yourself what you think! Be sure, however, that you properly identify the plant to avoid potential illness that can be caused by misidentification! One great resource that can help is the field guide “Rocky Mountain States: Wild Berries & Fruits.”

Three-Leaf-Sumac Rhus-trilobata, Photo courtesy Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com, Licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Three-Leaf-Sumac Rhus-trilobata
Photo courtesy Hansen’s Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
For Utah State University Extension Sustainability, this is Roslynn Brain.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy Hansen’s Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com, http://www.nwplants.com/business/catalog/rhu_tri.html,
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Text:     Roslynn Brain, Utah State University Extension Sustainability


Additional Reading:

Rhus trilobata, Three-leaf Summac, Plants of the Southwest, https://plantsofthesouthwest.com/products/rhus-trilobata?variant=11501394117

Rhus trilobata, Three-leaf Summac, Plant Database, Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA, http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=rhtr

Rhus trilobata, Three-leaf Summac, Lady Bird Johnson WildflowerCenter, University of Texas at Austin, http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=RHTR

Three-Leaf Sumac (Rhus trilobata)

Three-Leaf-Sumac Rhus-trilobata, Photo courtesy Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com, Licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Three-Leaf-Sumac Rhus-trilobata
Photo courtesy Hansen’s Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Many think of the desert as a hot, dry, barren, and unforgiving place. However, Utah’s deserts are chock full of interesting and diverse plants and animals! One such plant, which grows throughout much of Utah, is rhus trilobata or three-leaf sumac.

Three-leaf sumac is a widespread deciduous shrub in the Rhus genus, meaning “with three leaflets,” or “trifoliate leaves.” Others in this genus include Rhus aromoatica and the infamous western poison oak. The leaves of this shrubby-type plant are toothed, feel stiff and they give off quite a strong scent when crushed. The strong smell of crushed three-leaf sumac leaves has earned it the nickname “skunkbush” as well as “ill-scented sumac.”

Three-leaf sumac is a low spreading, many-branched deciduous shrub, usually no more than 3 feet high but spreading as much as 8 feet wide. The small, trifoliate leaves and the branches are fuzzy. Given its many branches, three-leaf sumac provides both nesting material and structure for native bees. Flowers are yellowish and found in clustered spikes. They are followed by bright crimson to reddish, sticky berries. The fall foliage adds an extra pop of color to the landscape.

Three-Leaf-Sumac Rhus-trilobata, Photo courtesy Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com, Licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Three-Leaf-Sumac Rhus-trilobata
Photo courtesy Hansen’s Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Historically, three-leaf sumac has been used for medicinal and other purposes. The bark can be chewed or brewed into a drink for cold symptoms. Flexible branches were traditionally used for twisting into basketry and rugs. In fact, three-leaf sumac was a close contender to willow in desirability for basket-making. This common use of the plant earned it another nickname of “basketbush.”

My favorite part of three-leaf sumac, however, are the slightly hairy and sticky berries. Although historically eaten for gastrointestinal pain and toothache, the berries have a delicious sour flavor and can be eaten plain or used in oatmeal, ice cream, steeped in tea, or soaked in cold water to make a beverage similar to lemonade. These berries are high in vitamin C and have earned three-leaf sumac the additional nicknames of “sourberry” “lemonade bush” and “lemonade berry.” Other nicknames for this multi-purpose plant include squawbush, desert sumac, or scented sumac.

Regardless of which nickname you choose for three-leaf sumac, give the berries a try and see for yourself what you think! Be sure, however, that you properly identify the plant to avoid potential illness that can be caused by misidentification! One great resource that can help is the field guide “Rocky Mountain States: Wild Berries & Fruits.”

Three-Leaf-Sumac Rhus-trilobata, Photo courtesy Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com, Licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Three-Leaf-Sumac Rhus-trilobata
Photo courtesy Hansen’s Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
For Utah State University Extension Sustainability, this is Roslynn Brain.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy Hansen’s Northwest Native Plant Database, nwplants.com, http://www.nwplants.com/business/catalog/rhu_tri.html,
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Text:     Roslynn Brain, Utah State University Extension Sustainability


Additional Reading:

http://www.plantsofthesouthwest.com/Three-Leaf-Sumacbri-Rhus-trilobata/productinfo/S2770/

Rainwater Harvesting

Click to view Moab Charter School Permaculture Garden, Photo Courtesy & © Roslynn Brain, Photographer
Permaculture Garden
Moab Charter School
Photo Courtesy & © Roslynn Brain, Photographer



Click to view Moab Charter School Permaculture Rain Garden, Photo Courtesy & © Roslynn Brain, PhotographerBefore and After
Permaculture Rain Garden
USU Moab
Photo Courtesy & © Roslynn Brain, Photographer



Click to view Rain Tank with Basins and Overflow Swales, Photo Courtesy & © Roslynn Brain, PhotographerRain Tank with
Basins and Overflow Swales
Albuquerque Open Space Visitor Ctr
Photo Courtesy & © Roslynn Brain, Photographer



Click to view Rain Water Storage Tank, Photo Courtesy & © Roslynn Brain, PhotographerRain Water Storage Tank
Private Residence in New Mexico
Installed by Jeff Adams of Terrasophia
Photo Courtesy & © Roslynn Brain, Photographer



Click to view Development, Permaculture Rain Garden, USU Logan, Photo Courtesy & © Roslynn Brain, PhotographerDevelopment
Permaculture Rain Garden
USU Logan
Photo Courtesy & © Roslynn Brain, Photographer

A common saying in the west is “Whiskey is for drinkin’ and water is for fightin.’” As drought forecasts and associated water scarcity grow, many are turning towards water harvesting as a way to not only save money, but to also be more self sufficient. In Utah, thanks to a revised House Bill 36 in 2013, residents on any parcel of land can install a rainwater harvesting system and use that water on the same parcel. The total volume of rainwater that can be harvested is 2,500 gallons. Containers are recommended to be covered, primarily to reduce mosquito outbreaks, and can be above or below ground.

So how do you go about installing a rainwater harvesting system?

First, analyze your landscape and estimate your water needs by doing a water budget calculation. The Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program has a landscape water budget tool that you can use to help determine your water needs. This is calculated as gallons per month based on your landscaped area, plant types, and associated water demand per plant type. In Brad Lancaster’s book, Rainwater Harvesting For Drylands and Beyond volume 1, you can find formulas for calculating how much rainwater your roof can yield, based on yearly or monthly rainfall. This can also be found in USU Extension’s permaculture fact sheet. Once you have these two numbers – your approximate landscape water demand, and the approximate rainwater your roof can provide per year, you can better estimate a practical size for your rainwater container – also called a tank or cistern. Also consider the room you have, likelihood of using harvested water, and ease of use, in addition to your landscape needs.

Now you are ready to either purchase or build your rainwater harvesting system. Remember, each tank needs an overflow and that overflow should ideally be aimed towards plants with higher water needs. For recommendations on how to install and or build rainwater harvesting containers in Utah search “Rain Barrels in Utah” through USU Extension.

If you are putting in new landscaping, search Water Harvesting Earthworks for ideas of how to design in a way that best slows, spreads, and sinks rainwater. Or look up “Plant the Water before the Tree” by the Watershed Management Group as a starting point.

No matter what size of tank you choose to install, the beauty lies in actually using harvested water from your tank, especially during periods of drought.

As watershed management consultant Jeff Adams says, “It is what you can fill, fit and afford based on your patterns of use.”

This is Roslynn Brain of Utah State University Extension Sustainability.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy & Copyright Roslynn Brain, Photographer
Text:     Roslynn Brain, Extension.usu.edu


Additional Reading:

Watersense, Environmental Protection Agency http://www3.epa.gov/watersense/

Lancaster, Brad, Rainwater Harvesting Drylands and Beyond, http://www.amazon.com/Rainwater-Harvesting-Drylands-Beyond-2nd/dp/0977246434/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1445316738&sr=1-1&keywords=rainwater+harvesting+for+drylands+and+beyond

Plant the Water Before the Tree – Help Your Tree Grow and Thrive with Rainwater!, Watershed Management Group, https://watershedmg.org/document/plant-water-tree-help-your-tree-grow-and-thrive-rainwater

Rain Barrels in Utah, USU Extension, http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1746&context=extension_curall

YCC Team, Lush Utah garden makes the most of a small amount of rain, Yale Climate Connections, July 25, 2022, https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2022/07/lush-utah-garden-makes-the-most-of-a-small-amount-of-rain/