Taraxacum officinale Wigg.

                       Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)


Common Dandelion  

                               January Photo


Plant Characteristics:   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.


Habitat:  Damp often low places in scattered localities in much of cismontane and montane Calif.  Abundant in lawns.  Blooms most months.


Name:  Taraxacum, name possibly of Arabian origin. (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 234).  Officinale, 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.  (Hatfield 62).


General:  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.  (Fuller 379).      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, the 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 59-63).       Dandelion 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.  (Kloss 237).


Text Ref:  Hickman, Ed. 350; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 234; Roberts 13.

Photo Ref:  Oct 87-Jan 88 # 30,31; April-June 03 #16.

Identity: by R. De Ruff, confirmed by F. Roberts.  

First Found:  January 1988.


Computer Ref:  Plant Data 386.  

Have plant specimen.

Last edit 5/17/05.  


                           May Photo                                                              January Photo