#99 Dandelion

Dandelion (Taxacum sp.)

7 June

There is such species as “Dandelion”, rather there are a host of dandelions in the genus Taxacum which makes them all “Asters” by family. Love ‘em or hate ‘em they are here to stay and the early pollinator insects certainbly like them and make good use of them.

The common name dandelion (/ˈdændɪlaɪ.ən/ DAN-di-ly-ən, from French dent-de-lion, meaning “lion’s tooth”) is given to members of the genus. Like other members of the family Asteraceae, they have very small flowers collected together into a composite flower head. Each single flower in a head is called a floret. In part due to their abundance along with being a generalist species, dandelions are one of the most vital early spring nectar sources for a wide host of pollinators. Many Taxacum species produce seeds asexually by apomixis, where the seeds are produced without pollination, resulting in offspring that are genetically identical to the parent plant.

Many similar plants in the family Asteraceae with yellow flowers are sometimes known as false dandelions. Dandelion flowers are very similar to those of cat’s ears (Hypochaeris). Both plants carry similar flowers, which form into windborne seeds. However, dandelion flowers are borne singly on unbranched, hairless and leafless, hollow stems, while cat’s ear flowering stems are branched, solid, and carry bracts. Both plants have a basal rosette of leaves and a central taproot. However, the leaves of dandelions are smooth or glabrous, whereas those of catsears are coarsely hairy.

Early-flowering dandelions may be distinguished from coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) by their basal rosette of leaves, their lack of disc florets, and the absence of scales on the flowering stem. Other plants with superficially similar flowers include hawkweeds (Hieracium) and hawksbeards (Crepis). These are readily distinguished by branched flowering stems, which are usually hairy and bear leaves.

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