DALS WILDLIFE SITE { WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND}

WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

DANDELION---JUST DANDY THIS HERB

The dandelion is an extremely common herb in the countryside and urban localities, or as many a gardener will testify a persistent weed in lawns, between paving stones and other aspects of the garden. In this perception it is a troublesome weed that persists even after the greatest endevours  have been employed to remove it.This is because the dandelion produces seeds for a large part of the year. The wind blown plumes {pappus} carry the seed parachute like far from the parent plant and they always seem to have chosen your garden in which to land.

BELOW A FIELD OF DANDELIONS. DANDELIONS APPEAR IN UNCOUNTABLE NUMBERS DURING LATE SPRING AND EARLY SUMMER.

photographs by Dal

BASIC BIOLOGY OF THE DANDELION.

ROOT----is a thick long tap root, which is darkish on the outside while the interior is white and milky.

LEAVES---the long jagged leaves radiate from the root and form a rosette which lies close to the ground. This arrangement shades out other germinating species of flora and denies grasses the light and water they need to survive. Nature has decreed that each leaf is grooved and fashioned in such a way that the rain water is channeled down the center of the leaf blade to feed the root thus the root is always well nourished.

The foliage is shiny and without hairs.The jagged lobes are upright and slightly pointing backwards. When held out in a horizontal manner the leaf resembles the jaw and teeth of a lion. from this fanciful resemblance the plant acquired its common name, via the French dente-de-leon, tooth of the lion.

FLOWERS AND SEEDS----The hairless, purplish green flower stalks rise straight from the root, they are leafless and smooth.They are hollow and bear single flower heads. the stem exudes a milky sap which is present throughout the plant. the flower heads are composed of numerous strap shaped florets of a bright golden yellow colour. the edge of each floret is notched with five teeth

If the dandelion was an uncommon species it would be admired for its chrysanthemum like blooms. They are a great source of nectar for bees because of the succession of blooms available to them in early summer.Studies have revealed that over 90 species of insects visit the flowers.

At the base of each flower head is a ring of narrow leaf like bracts collectively known as the involucre, some support the flower head some bend back towards the stem. In fine weather all parts of the flower head are outstretched to meet the sun. However, should cloud threaten rain the whole flower head closes up. Studies have revealed that the flower closes early evening to protect itself from heavy dew, however, it does seem to be dependent on the intensity of light. By 8am in the morning, if the weather is fine they open up again to meet the day.

When the florets fade the seeds crowned with their tuft of hairs become a large gossamer globe. These are called by children as dandelion "clocks". Bowing of the plumes and counting the puffs needed to do so supposedly told the time. For example 5 puffs to clear the head would be 5.o.clock. When the wind has removed all the seeds the central disk becomes bare surrounded by drooping bracts. they then have a fanciful resemblance to the head of Medieval Friars who have had their hair cut in such a manner. Thus the country title of "priest's crown" was born.

Seedlings that emerge in spring may flower the same year. Established plants bloom late in spring and early summer. They may also have a second flush of flowers in the autumn. The time from flowering to seed ripening is about 9-14 days. the flower head is capable of producing up to 400 seeds. The germination ratio is between 80 and 90% Many seedlings emerge in the first two years after departing from the parent plant. Birds also help distribution. They over winter as a small rosette.

Some other species of dandelion occur in Britain for example the lesser dandelion Taraxacum brachyglossom, a plant of dry grassland, dunes and chalk downs. The red veined dandelion T,ssp spectabilis, often found on mountain pastures and on ledges. Narrow leaved marsh dandelion T,ssp palustris is found on open grassy places in marshes and fens and along riversides. However, has we have seen these species are species of specialized habitats.

BELOW THE SEED HEADS OF THE DANDELION REFERRED TO AS "CLOCKS"

Photographs by Dal

MEDICINAL AND CULINARY VIRTUES OF THIS HERB.

The dandelion is one of the most useful herbs, being so abundant in so many localities. Almost every part of the plant can be utilised in one way or another. The flowers , the leaves and the root.

The young leaves {small and fresh} may be boiled as a vegetable in the manner one would cook spinach, then drained well and sprinkled with seasoning. they may even be moistened with soup or butter, and served hot. The foliage has long been employed in herb beers being a favourite beverage of country folk in days gone by. The young foliage has long been eaten as a salad.they may also be infused as a tea.  This tea acts as a diuretic and has a high potassium content. This same infusion has been used as a lotion to treat skin disorders such as acne and eczema

BELOW ---IT IS THE YOUNG LEAVES AROUND THIS SIZE THAT ARE USED FOR CULINARY PURPOSES

Photograph by Dals

FLOWERS AND ROOTS

 The flowers have been employed to produce a dandelion wine. When mature the wine is said to be reminiscent of sherry and was considered to be an excellent blood purifier.

The roots were dug up, cleaned and then roasted on a low heat placed on an oven tray. once prepared they were ground up and used as a substitute for coffee. Roots dug up in the autumn were said to be favourable for this purpose. The resulting coffee has a flavour of true coffee and of better value to human health. It has a stimulant affect without causing wakefulness.

In days gone by herbalists used the juice of the roots in herbal preparations.

The active ingredients include bitters, tannins, some essential oil and flavonoides. Modern day uses include the treatment of liver and gall bladder problems, and the foliage has a diuretic.it is also a good blood purifier.

Any one inclined to use the dandelion for medicinal or culinary purposes should first visit WILD HERB ADVISE. The link is on the  right hand side of this page.

BELOW SINGLE SPECIMENS MAY BE ENCOUNTERED THROUGHOUT THE YEAR AFTER THE MAIN FLUSH IS OVER.

photograph by Dal

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