Friday, January 14, 2011

something i learnt about dandelions

one of the reasons i enjoy blogging is that i am learning new things and re-learning old things all the time. blogging is not just about sharing experiences, knowledge and any information; it is about sharing the correct information. therefore, it is important to have the information we have gathered properly verified so that we do not perpetuate some inaccurate or wrong information.

for this blog posting, i got some help from my blogger friend john harper. i had not been sure if the picture below shows the flower or the seed head.

this is what john wrote: dandelion seed heads. the seed is carried on a puff of wind a long distance from the parent plant. the name dandelion derives from the french word 'dent te lion' meaning tooth of the lion. as is usual with words taken into english, the word starts to undergo a metamorphosis through slurring, laziness and mispronounciation. hence the transformation from dent de lion in french to dandelion in english. dandelions are considered a pernicious weed in the uk despite the flower being fairly attractive. it has a long tap root that breaks when you try to dig it up. it also exudes a milky white latex like fluid that stains your hand grey. as a child we called the seed heads dandelion clocks. you blew at the seed head and counted off the times as one o'clock for one puff, two o'clock for two, etc.

i have always been fascinated by the dandelion. it was featured in one of my primary school reading texts and mentioned more than once in more than one of the many enid blyton books that i devoured when i entered secondary school. when i was in primary school, i hardly read any book other than the text books. when i was in secondary one, i was told to read more to improve my english language.

on one of our travel trips overseas - i think it was on our first trip to new zealand, we came across some dandelions by the roadside. excitedly, i picked one and blew on it to show my daughters how the tiny 'parachutes' fly in the wind. i was just doing what i had seen in an illustration in my text-book many years ago.

i always thought that the globular seed head was the flower of the plant. although i often saw the yellow flowers together with the seed heads, i did not realise the connection until i started to read up about the dandelion and checked with john. the dandelion (the seed head) actually comes from the flower of the dandelion plant. i also found out that there are false dandelions. according to john, these are called catsears.

like the cherries which i blogged about earlier, the dandelion is also a harbinger of summer. they are to be found in abundance everywhere in summer although you do see them at other times of the year.


Uncle Lee said...

Hi YG, these dandelions look beautiful when growing and flowering with its yellow flowers, if left uncut, a sea of yellow. is also one of the causes of hay fever. Those allergic to pollen in Summer.
A few of my friends suffer from hay fever and they dread Summer, to see these plants shooting up.

When they blossom, and wind is strong, their pollen flies everywhere.
And those suffering from hay fever says its like dying!
We see these every late spring.
Have a nice day, Lee.

JollyGreenP said...

A little more trivia on the dandelion: the young leaves are edible and go well in salads but don't overdo the amount you eat as thay have a well know diuretic effect which also leads to another of the country names "wet the bed" which also translate directly from the French common name of "pis en lit"

yg said...

lee, in canada, the yellow flowers start appearing in great numbers in may? i find the flowers growing by the roadside very attractive. my son-in-law also suffers from hay fever and he usually gets it in spring.

yg said...

john, eating the leaves can be a treatment for urinary tract infection?

Pat said...

Nice photo of the Dandelion seed head. This is otherwise known as an infructescence (ie. cluster of fruits arising from the same inflorescence). Like all members of the Asteraceae (sunflower) family, the yellow
"flower" itself is not a single flower, but actually an inflorescence head of many small flowers -- ie. the ray florets (the "petals") at the margin & several disk florets in the centre.

How coincidental that you blogged about Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Earlier today, I came across a SG ghost-hunting blog claiming that some grass-like plants sighted near Holland Link are Dandelions, & since Dandelions are supposedly associated with remembrance & sympathy, this apparently points to the "certainty" of the said spot as a former cemetery !

But problem is: The said plants are not Dandelions at all, but a sedge called Kyllinga polyphylla (Navua Sedge). A lookalike is Kyllinga nemoralis (Whitehead Spikesedge). In contrast to Dandelion, the prominent yellowish or whitish "heads" are in fact inflorescences -- although I suppose they might superficially resemble the hairy infructescences of Dandelions. These compact inflorescences can't be blown apart though. And well, the presence of sedges simply implies with a certainty that the ground is wet (whether it contains graves or not).

Your primary school textbook featured Dandelion ? That's quite unusual. Could it have been one of the locally-found versions of the Dandelion instead ? Namely: Cyanthillium cinereum (synonym: Vernonia cinerea) (Rumput Sepagi, Little Ironweed), Emilia sonchifolia (Cupid's Shaving-brush), & Tridax procumbens (Coat Buttons). Like Dandelion, these wildflowers also belong to the Asteraceae family, & produce similar-looking tufted infructescences that are fun to blow at.

yg said...

pat, you must be an expert on plants. the grass-like plants in that photo definitely do not look like the yellow flowers i see here.
the content in my primary school textbooks in the 50s was not local. we were more familiar with names like janet and john rather than ali, siti, gopal and mei ling.