March 9th, 2012

Latin:  Taraxacum officinale

Irish:  Caisearbhán


The yellow flowers, the lobed leaves, the hollow flower stems that exude latex (milky substance), and the downy seeds of Dandelion are very familiar to most people.  It is a native species that is, generally, not regarded as very attractive but Dandelions are special in several ways.

Their biology is very complex; for example, in Co. Dublin alone over 70 sub-species have been recorded and these can set seed without pollination and they never, therefore, interbreed.  Dandelions are also special in the sense that they have many different roles: a weed; flavouring for wine; food for pets; a salad vegetable; a significant source of pollen and nectar for honeybees; and a medicinal plant.

The term “officinale” in the generic name of a species indicates that it has a history of medicinal use.  Preparations from Dandelion have been, and are still used as a diuretic and a tonic.  In fact, its diuretic properties are frequently advanced as an explanation for one of its common names – “piss-the-bed”.

One theory on the origin of the name “dandelion” is that it is the corruption of a French name – “dent de leon” – meaning lion’s teeth, in reference to the sharply indented outline of the dandelion leaf.

It is abundant throughout the course, especially where grass is not mowed frequently.



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