We’ve been taking advantage of the longer daylight hours and the (mostly pleasant) summer evenings the past month or two by lingering longer at the pool, or by heading out the door for nice long strolls. The strolls have several highlights according to my three-year old daughter, including bunny counting (SO many this year!), stomping on lantern flies (UGH), catching fireflies and her most favorite of all, picking dandelions.
I have countless photos since she was able to walk, of her smiling away with a yellow stained nose and fistfuls of drooping dandelions. We always bring them home, fill a glass with water and put the bouquet on the kitchen table.
For most of us, dandelions don’t inspire joy. Our lawns are peppered with the pesky weeds, and many hours are spent digging them out to retore the yard to uninterrupted green. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that my daughter’s adoration of the little yellow blooms is well-earned!
The very presence of dandelions in our lawns is a message that the soil (and so, the yard) needs help! The entire life cycle of a dandelion helps the soil. Dandelions grow in places where the soil is distressed. Their long (sometimes a few feet long!) roots push into dry, compact earth helping to break it up and create pathways for air and water to penetrate. This loosens the soil and helps earthworms do their jobs! The plants pull calcium, iron and potassium into their leaves, so when they die and decompose, they leave behind mineral-rich organic matter that feeds the soil and makes it ready for something new to grow! How about that?!
Also, dandelions are critical for pollinators. They are an important food source for bees, especially in early spring because they grow and bloom earlier than other plants and flowers. Butterflies and moths also feed on dandelions as a source of sugar.
Interestingly, dandelions weren’t deemed a weed until sometime in the 20th century. In fact, there was a time when gardeners weeded out the grass to make room for dandelions!
While I certainly love a green lawn and don’t really want to ignore the cheerful and stubborn little yellow blooms while weeding, I do see them with a new appreciation. Not only do they bring my daughter (and so many other little ones) joy, but they have a bigger purpose which I think is pretty darn cool.