Taraxacum officinale Wigg.
Perennial; lvs. in a basal rosette, slightly petioled, 5-30 cm. long,
oblong or spatulate, sinuate-pinnatifid to subentire, the longer marginal lobes
toothed and with intermediate small teeth; heads 2-5 cm. broad, orange-yellow;
phyllaries green to fuscous, mostly not appendaged; aks. 2-4 mm. long, drab or
olivaceous, tubercled at summit; pappus whitish.
Damp often low places in scattered localities in much of cismontane and
montane Calif. Abundant in lawns. Blooms
Taraxacum, name possibly of
Arabian origin. (Munz, Flora So. Calif.
officinal, medicinal, recognized in the pharmacopoeia.
(Bailey 19). The popular
name "dandelion" is a corruption of the French dent de lion which, in its turn, derives from the Latin phrase dens
leonis. But no authority can definitively guide us as to which part
of the plant was likened to the lion's tooth.
Uncommon in the study area, having been found only along the horse path on the westerly side of the Delhi
Ditch and at 23rd St. (my comments).
The familiar lawn weed. The
common Dandelion was eaten and used in American Indian medicine soon after its
introduction into the northeastern United States.
A tea of the roots was used for heartburn by the Pillager Ojibwas, while
the Mohegans and other tribes drank it for its tonic properties. The Iroquois preferred the boiled leaves with fatty meats, as
did the Papago and Cahuilla tribes of Arizona and California, respectively. (The
Cahuilla ate the leaves and stems of T.
californicum). (Bean &
Saubel 141). Among the Tewas,
the leaves were used to treat a fracture. Ground and mixed to a paste it was
spread on the injured part. A tonic
for heart trouble was made from the blossoms by some tribes.
Deer, moose, elk, bears, rodents and many birds, including grouse and
pheasant, consume the plants. The
dried root was listed in the U.S. pharmacopoeia from 1831 to 1926.
The dandelion has saved many people from starvation and is relished by
many others. It contains healthy
amounts of vitamins A, B, and C and calcium, sodium, and potassium.
Generally the products are best before the plant flowers, at which time
they become too bitter. Young,
peeled roots, greens, crowns (root-leaf junction), and flowers are used in
various ways. (Clarke 191). If you break the flowering stalk, you
will note that it is hollow and that a milky substance appears at the site of
the break. The milky juice contains
latex, from which rubber could be made, though this is not commercially feasible
at this time. (Crockett 135).
The plant has been known to cause hay fever and asthma.
On the debit side, however, the dandelion, like some fruits, exhales a
breath charged with ethylene gas which hinders the growth of its plant
neighbors. Moreover, it depletes
the soil until, like the buttercup, it has stunted all the cultivated plants in
its vicinity, causing them to produce premature, pygmy fruits and creating
disappointment. As a garden weed,
dandelion, like the nettle, absorbs about three times as much iron from
the soil as is extracted by any other plant.
The dandelion remedies human deficiencies, for it can be the best source
of copper in our diet. Moreover, it
provides iron and constituents such as the bitter taraxacin, inulin and potash.
These last three are contained in its milky juice and have their
particular medicinal values. Being
nonpoisonous, the plant is harmless and entirely beneficial to humans.
Although the people of the dark and twilight ages could not possibly know
the scientific reasons why the dandelion healed, its cures had already been
experienced for many centuries before they were recorded by Arabian physicians
of the tenth century. (Hatfield
greens contain more beta carotene than carrots, sweet potato, spinach and other
fruits and vegetables usually listed as containing a high amount of this vital
nutrient. Beta carotene is believed
to protect against cancer and cataracts, and is one of a large group of
substances called carotenoids, which are generally found in the same vegetables
and fruits which have a high Vitamin A content.
Unlike Vitamin A, which can be very dangerous in large doses, beta
carotene is nontoxic, since the body is able to regulate its conversion to
Vitamin A. The worst thing large
amounts of carotene can do is turn your skin yellow or orange, but this is
harmless. Numerous animal studies
have suggested that beta carotene can defend against tumors and enhance the
immune system. At least 70 studies
on humans have found that those who don't eat enough vegetables and fruits rich
in carotenoids have an increased risk of cancer--lung cancer in particular.
Paul Lachance, professor of food science at Rutgers University has
calculated that people should eat foods supplying 5 to 6 milligrams of beta
carotene a day, while the average American gets less than 1.5 milligrams a day.
A carrot a day will do the trick. (Author
not given, "Mom Was Right! It is Good for You to Eat Your Carrots".
Los Angeles Times, Orange County Edition. Feb. 12, 1990, B 7).
The ground roots make an excellent substitute for coffee.
Hickman, Ed. 350; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 234; Roberts 13.
Oct 87-Jan 88 # 30,31; April-June 03 #16.
Identity: by R. De Ruff, confirmed by F. Roberts.
First Found: January 1988.
Plant Data 386.
Have plant specimen.
Last edit 5/17/05.
May Photo January Photo