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Dandelion

Description  Scientific Name: Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion, which is a flowering plant, belongs to a plant family called Asteraceae. Lawn care involves weed control and Dandelion is among the major weeds found in lawns. The plant can grow up to 17 inches high. Actually, in various parts of the world, the plant is identified as a weed. However, in Belgium Dandelion is cultivated and exploited for its values such as root beer and wine production. Moreover, the roots of the plant can be used as coffee substitute. Dandelion is readily identifiable as a tough perennial weed. The base of the plant is rosette-like producing multiple leaves and numerous flowering stems. 

Dandelion name derivation
The name dandelion was derived from French words “dent de lion” The later means lion’s tooth. This name was chosen for this particular plant because of its leaves that are deeply toothed. In fact, it is believed that the English derivative might have separately evolved several times. The scientific name Taraxacum officinale is thought to be a derivative of a Persian word “rarashaquq” The latter was used by pharmacists. The plant species name is derived from the latin word “officina” meaning store-room, office or pharmacy. 

Origin 
Dandelions originated from Eurasia. However, they have spread to other parts such as New Zealand, North America, India, South America and many other countries. The wide distribution of the plant is due to migration of Europeans in many parts of the world. Much of this distribution owes to the fact that the plant has a lot of medicinal values. In many parts, it is identified as an invasive species out-competing the native species for habitats. 

Habitat
Dandelion is widely distributed throughout the world. The plant is very common in habitats that have an adequate supply of sunlight. In other words, it is identified commonly in temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. The common Dandelion habitats are lawns, grasslands, gardens, forest edges, and meadows. In lawns, the Dandelion is common as a broad-leaved weed. 

Dandelions are not desired in Lawns
Dandelions are not desired in Lawns


Seeds
Dandelions have seeds that appear as white balls (spherical collections). Each seed is enclosed by feathery bristles for easy dispersal by the wind. They can cover 5 miles before landing. 

Flowers
Dandelion produces composite flowers. This is in spring (between months of March and September). Its flowers are golden yellow in color. They are shaped like disks and have a feathery appearance. The outer bracts of the flower point downwards. The flower head is tightly packed with numerous tiny florets. In fact, a common characteristic of the family is that each petal represents a flower. Interestingly, the flowers have a behavior highly influenced by the sun. They open in the morning and when the sun sets in the evening they close. 

Leaves
The plant has leaves that have toothed edges. These leaves are basal i.e. they are found at ground level. They have deep lobes and have an appearance similar to that of Chicory leaves. They are 2 – 10 cm long. When you break any leaf milky latex oozes. 

Life Cycle
Dandelions germinate from seeds (sexual reproduction). They produce viable seeds through the process of “apomixes” (no cross-fertilization). Notably, the resulting progeny is also capable of producing more viable seeds without cross-fertilization. That way a single dandelion can colonize your lawn within a little time. 

Dandelions flower abundantly in spring. However, they can also produce flowers in the fall. After some days, flowers close and seeds develop inside. The seeds are enclosed in a fruit referred to as “cypselae”. These seeds are formed on the flower stalk with each seed representing a floret. Every seed has a pappus (feathery bristles), that aid in wind dispersion. The flower stalk is elongated upwards as the seeds mature, raising the seed head into the path of breezes. 

Why it’s hard to control the weed
Once the seed germinates, a rosette of tiny leaves is produced close to the ground. They concentrate on developing a tap root, which grows deep in the soil. Hence, by the time you notice a dandelion plant, it means that it is fully established. For this reason, it’s hard to eradicate the weed from your lawn. 

In fact, every time there is a generation ready to replace the preceding one. Notably, a single dandelion plant can grow to a height of 50 cm. On the other hand, the plant can grow for five to ten years. 

Lawn care
If you have a lawn, you must be well informed that getting rid of Dandelions is not easy. Seeds can be brown from your neighbor’s yard. However, to enhance Dandelions control in your lawn here are tips.
• Never over cut the grass - Avoid cutting grass to heights less than 2 inches, 3 inches is even better. When you cut the grass too short, you allow a lot of light to penetrate and support massive dandelion growth and germination. 
• Fertilizer use – Some people say that dandelions utilize fertilizers better compared to the grass and that fertilizer use should be limited. This may be true in that a dandelion will get bigger. However, most grasses have the ability to spread so as to fill in the empty spaces. So regular proper feeding of lawns will thicken the lawn to prevent dandelions from getting started in the lawn. 

Bottom Line
Complete eradication of Dandelions from a lawn is not easy. However, through the employment of environmentally friendly lawn care practices, you can limit Dandelion populations in your lawn. Currently in Ontario, Fiesta is a herbicide that will give acceptable results if used regularly to control dandelions But, you need to accept the fact that you  may still see a few dandelions from time to time.

Wriitten by: gikundantiphas - with edits by Gerry Okimi

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