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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Taraxacum officinale
Taraxacum japonicum
Taraxacum albidum
and a very few others.

The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae) is a common and extremely hardy plant, found in most temperate zone gardens during the summer months. Dandelions were originally widely distributed throughout Eurasia, but have been inadvertently introduced to North America and Australia, where they have thrived.

Larger bee on dandelion image

The dandelion has a bright yellow flower, which gives way in time to a globe of fine filaments that are usually distributed by wind, containing the seeds that help it spread. This is generally known as the "dandelion clock", and blowing it away is a popular pastime for children. If your dandelion does not have solitary flowers on top of a hollow stem you don't have a dandelion; try for Sonchus[?] (also edible), or Hieracium instead, or, if you look at enormous fluffballs, Tragopogon (edible).

However the plant known as hawkbit[?] also grows solitary unbranched flowers, but the leaves of this plant remain hairy as they get larger while the dandelion leaves appears to lose their hairs as they grow larger. Hawkbit is related to the dandelion, and is also edible.

(Dandelion clock partially blown)

Some dandelions are self-pollinating, this is the reason for there being a large range of dandelion species, especially where botanists who like as many species as possible ("splitters") are influential.

The dandelion's leaves grow outward from the center; they are oval with wavy edges and lay mostly flat on the ground. The stem extends from the center over the taproot, and exudes a milky substance when broken.

The name dandelion is a corruption of the Old French, dent-de-lion, literally "lion's tooth" on account of the sharply indented leaves of the plant.

While dandelions are considered as weeds by many gardeners, the plant has several culinary and medicinal uses. Like a nettle[?], the plant can be cooked and eaten in various forms, such as soup. The young leaves are eaten raw in salads while older leaves are usually cooked. Dandelion blossoms are also used to make dandelion wine. Dandelions are high in vitamin A and also are a source of vitamin C.

Ground roasted dandelion root is used as a coffee substitute. Drunk before meals this is believed to stimulate digestive function and therefore prepare the system for food; this is sold in some health food stores, often in a mixture as Dandelion and Burdock.

It should be noted that uncooked the dandelion has a diuretic effect and is known in France as pissenlit (literally, "wet the bed") for precisely this reason. Dandelion root is a registered drug in Canada, sold as a diuretic.

Dandelions are grown commercially as produce on a small scale.


The lumper[?] point of view:

Lumpers believe in putting as many plants as possible into one single species.

  • Taraxacum officinale, dandelion. Found in many forms, but differs at least from the following:
  • Taraxacum japonicum, Japanese dandelion. No ring of smallish, downward-turned leaves under the flowerhead.
  • Taraxacum albidum, a white-flowering Japanese dandelion.
and a very few others.

The splitter[?] point of view:

Splitters believe in splitting genera into as many species as possible.

Dandelions are sometimes apomictic[?] (self-pollinating). They also sometimes drop the parachutes from their seeds. Ergo, there are species that grow only in a single meadow, found only within a few square meters. These species can become extinct because of the work of a single bulldozer, thus a botanist's life's work can be in vain.

As an example, there are a few hundred species of dandelion in Finland. Lumpers consider the lot to be Taraxacum officinale!

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