What is a Lion’s Tooth, you ask? It’s an abundant wildflower- many call it a weed- that has an interesting name origin.
The name of this particular nemesis of manicured lawns comes from the French, who originally called it dent de lion, or lion’s tooth. Somebody saw a resemblance in its coarsely toothed leaves with the fearsome beasts’s dental layout, so there you go. More recently, the French term for this flower is pissenlit, which roughly means “pee in the bed”, which refers to this plant’s diuretic qualities. An English folk name echoes this- “pissabeds”. Our modern name is a corruption of the original French word, rendered as “dandelion”. It was a bit of an odd journey through language to arrive at this name!
Dandelions are part of a large genus of flowers, though we typically call 2 species of worldwide distribution by this name- the Common Dandelion and the Red-Seeded Dandelion. They are extremely hardy and grow in any disturbed soil. This is partly due to the fact that it can fertilize its own seeds, and each plant is able to produce 5,000 seeds a year. They are commonly called weeds because homeowners don’t appreciate their presence on their lawns, nor do farmers like it when they show up in their fields. However, dandelions have a good side.
The flower is made up of many yellow ray florets
Personally, I think Dandelions look handsome, their bright yellow glow being very cheerful on sunny days. But there are other reasons to like them.
Dandelions are edible if you’re not allergic to them- you can eat the flowers, the young leaves make good salads and can be cooked like spinach; the roots can be ground into a coffee substitute, which is naturally caffeine-free. Roots can also be used as a vegetable in soups. The flowers can be made into wine. This plant has a good amount of vitamins and minerals, so it’s actually quite nutritious to consume. People have been eating this plant for thousands of years, for good reasons.
This hardy plant grew in a bit of soil between twin tree trunks
The flowers are a very important early source of nectar and pollen for bees as well as some butterflies and moths. So you can rationalize your yellow-blooming yard as nature-friendly. Be sure to let your neighbors know 🙂
A Cabbage White Butterfly enjoys a Dandelion in the spring
Dandelions were widely used in folk medicine as a tonic for kidney and liver ailments and as a diuretic. Supposedly the milky sap is a mosquito repellent and also was a treatment for warts.
The classic seed head, ready to disperse seeds on the wind
This prolific plant has also been made into dyes, making a positive out of its tendency to stain clothes. Dwell on the good things!
One thing you might notice about Dandelions- they are year-round flowers. They are certainly most abundant in the warm weather, but if you keep an eye out for them, you’ll see the occasional one even in winter. Now that’s a sight to keep your spirits up until spring.