Dandelions

Dandelions
Copyright © 2002 Roger Banner, Intermountain Herbarium, USU

Hi I’m Holly Strand.

The snow has barely melted yet Dandelions are pushing their way up through the grass. The flowers delight my daughter who eagerly gathers them by the fistful into cheerful but quickly droopy bouquets. However, not everyone shares her enthusiasm. The common dandelion is listed as an invasive and noxious weed by the USDA. Lawnowners spend a lot of time pulling them up and a lot of money on herbicides. There is even a Facebook group called Dandelion Haters United!

The Flora of North America recognizes 15 species of dandelion and four of these occur in Utah. Two native species are found in the mountains. The dandelion that you see in your lawn is an immigrant from Eurasia. If it has olive green seeds it the “Common Dandelion”. If it has brick-red seeds and leaves lobed to the tip it is the so called” Red seeded dandelion. “ This red-seeded dandelion is also common.

The word dandelion comes from the French dent de lion or “lion’s tooth,” referring to the serrated leaves of the plant. The French however, use another name “pissenlit” (pis’seau-li) or bedwetter, referring to the diuretic properties of the plant.

Throughout the ages, people have used dandelions to treat various ailments such as dyspepsia, heartburn, spleen and liver complaints, and hepatitis. Modern pharmacaological studies indicate both dandelion extracts or individual compounds of dandelion leaves or roots really do have significant health-promoting properties. They appear to be especially beneficial for treating digestive disorders, inflammation and as an anti-oxidant.

But the main reason you shouldn’t reach for that pesticide is that dandelions are delicious! The young fresh leaves taste great in a salad, or you can sauté them as you would spinach. You can make dandelion soup or even wine. The greens have 50% more vitamin C than tomatoes, double the protein content of eggplant, and twice the fiber of asparagus. They are also rich in potassium and iron. If harvesting from your yard, just make sure you pick the leaves before the flowers appear.

For information sources and a recipe for dandelion salad go to www.wildaboututah.org

For Wild About Utah, I’m Holly Strand.

Credits:

Photos: Courtesy and Copyright 2002 Roger Banner, Intermountain Herbarium, USU
Text: Holly Strand

Sources & Additional Reading:

Fertig, W. 2011.
Can‘t Beat ‘em? Eat ‘em ! (Sidebar to “Consider the Dandelion Before You Dig”) Sego Lily (newsletter of the Utah native Plant Society. March. Vol. 34, No. 2. P. 8 http://www.unps.org/segolily/Sego2011MarApr.pdf

Lesica, Peter 2011. Consider the Dandelion Before You Dig. Sego Lily (newsletter of the Utah native Plant Society. March. Vol. 34, No. 2. P. 8 http://www.unps.org/segolily/Sego2011MarApr.pdf

Schutz, Katrin, Reinhold Carle, Andreas Schieber Reinhold Carle, Andreas Schieber. 2006. Taraxacum—A review on its phytochemical and pharmacological profile Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Vol. 107, pp. 313–323

Dandelions, Range Plants of Utah, Forbs, Mindy Pratt, Jim Bowns, Roger Banner, Allen Rasmussen, USU Extension, 2002, http://extension.usu.edu/range/forbs/dandelion.htm

Dandelion Salad (from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

1/2 pound torn dandelion greens

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a medium bowl, toss together dandelion greens, red onion, and tomatoes.

Season with basil, salt, and pepper.

Dyer’s Woad

Dyer’s Woad in blossom
Courtesy of and
Copyright © 2009 Brad Kropp
As found on bugwood.org

In early May, pale yellow carpets some hillsides of Northern Utah. The plants are a non-native known as Dyer’s Woad. This Asian member of the cabbage family has been cultivated as a dye and medicinal plant in Europe and Asia for 2000 years. Dyer’s Woad produces a glorious blue dye, but the process is tricky. No synthetic dye equals the color and characteristics of woad dyes.

Woad had arrived in Utah by 1932 as a seed contaminant. Now it is a noxious weed. Woad has a number of unique abilities that contribute to its vigor. Being a biennial plant, it spends the first year of life as a rosette of leaves, building reserves. In its second year, those reserves allow a woad plant to send forth a tall, lanky stem covered with pale yellow flowers that ultimately yield up to 10,000 seeds per plant.

Although Dyer’s Woad is not toxic, few animals relish it either. The seeds have chemicals that inhibit germination and root elongation in other plants, giving woad a competitive edge. Woad causes millions of dollars in losses each year, so control is a major issue. Herbicides and mechanical removal are best used against the rosettes, but nature has provided a native fungus that views woad as dinner. This rust fungus is very effective at eliminating or severely reducing seed production. Plants infected with the rust fungus are misshapen, wrinkly, and covered in dark spots. Those spots brim with rust spores. Therefore, when removing woad, leave the sickly plants to infect yet more woads.

Dyer’s Woad with rust
Courtesy of and
Copyright © 2009 Brad Kropp
As found on bugwood.org

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.
Credits:
Photos: Brad Krupp, Utah State University, Bugwood.org
Text: Michael Piep, Utah Native Plant Society

Additional Reading:

Resources:
Intermountain Herbarium: http://herbarium.usu.edu/

Washington Weed Board: http://www.nwcb.wa.gov/weed_info/Written_findings

/Isatis_tinctoria.html

References:
Edmonds, J. 2006. The History of Woad and the Medieval Woad Vat. http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-history-of-woad-and-the-medieval-woad-vat/4928037

Shaw, R.J. 1989. Vascular Plants of Northern Utah. Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah. http://www.usu.edu/usupress/books/index.cfm?isbn=1417

Welsh, S.L., N D. Atwood, S Goodrich & L.C. Higgins. 2008. A Utah Flora, 4th Ed. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. http://www.amazon.com/Utah-Flora-Stanley-L-Welsh/dp/0842525564