15 Apr 2017
April: Month of the Dandelion
Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a native plant that flowers most abundantly in April/May, although later repeat flowering is common, even in late autumn.
It carries prominent, deep yellow flowers containing nectar that early bees, hoverflies, moths and butterflies are drawn to. The plant is often abundant on grass verges, hedge banks, gardens, fields, woodland rides and clearings. It is not fussy about soil type, but it does not grow on waterlogged ground or on wet acidic peat soil. Unfortunately, many gardeners regard the plant with disdain, even revulsion. The first sign of its golden bloom on the lawn has the gardener reaching for herbicide, trowel or mower.
This irrational hatred is greatly to be regretted. The Common Dandelion is a wonderful wild flower. Every spring butterfly and many moths rely on the plant for sustenance when little nectar is available. Bees love the plant too. Several moth larvae feed on the leaves. Indeed, the leaves can be used in a salad; no spring salad should be without their leaves which can be eaten fresh or cooked (steamed). When the plant produces seed, Goldfinches and Bullfinches tuck in, and the fluffy part is used to line bird nests.
If the plant was not native, and was offered for sale in garden centres, I have little doubt that it would be a best seller. It would be likely to have an attractive name; Taraxacum officinale “Golden glow” might serve. Spare the flower and you spare the bees, moths, butterflies and birds that rely on the plant. Common Dandelion is spring’s gift to our butterflies; be its advocate, and when neighbours ask why you’ve got these flowers all over your lawn, tell them!