INSPIRATIONS – dandelions
A doting dandelion dedication. For anyone who can see the exceptional in the everyday things around us.
Age Range: all ages
Duration: less than an hour
Time Of Day: any time
Category: food outdoors inspirations sustainability & nature
Muddy Faces celebrates dandelions! This page has been created to provide inspiration and ideas around dandelions, including quotes, art, foraging and a book recomendation.
A little bit about dandelions
The name dandelion comes from the French, dent-de-lion – “lion’s tooth”. This name refers to the sharp lobes of the leaves, rather than the spiky yellow petals of the flower.
Dandelions are from the plant family Asteraceae. This family name is derived from the genus Aster and refers to the star-shaped flower heads. Other members of this family include daisy, lettuce, chicory, globe artichoke, safflower, chrysanthemums, ragwort, and sunflower.
The bright yellow flower head opens in the daytime but closes at night.
Dandelions have been well known for their nutritional and medicinal qualities for centuries. They can be consumed as a leafy vegetable, whether cooked or raw (such as in salads or soup), and dandelion flower heads can be used to make wine and jam. Medicinally, dandelion has been used and still is used, for a variety of treatments.
Dandelions are often perceived as a weed: their leaves spread outwards, pressing down the surrounding vegetation, killing it by cutting off the sunlight. Its ability to grow back from just a little of a tap root means that it is tricky to get rid of if unwanted.
According to Dominic Price of wild plant protection charity Plantlife,
“it is not normally an offence to pick the ‘Four Fs’ – fruit, foliage, fungi or flowers – if the plants are growing wild and it is for your personal use and not for sale.”
Dozens of rare or endangered plants – from the lady’s slipper orchid and adder’s tongue, to threadmoss and sandwort – are, however, protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.
It is illegal to uproot any wild plant. Cultivated flowers growing in council parks, roundabouts or verges are legally off-limits. The same goes for any gardens planted by a particular organisation (ie community gardens), and nature reserves or protected land.
Celebrating Dandelions for Earth Day
“I passed verge after verge stuffed full of uncountable numbers of dancing dandelions, fully open and making the most of that lovely heat and light. What a truly heart-lifting sight an expanse of dandelions is! What stunning plants they are.”
Fantasy Wire dandelion sculptures
Fantasy Wire love dandelions – they have a whole section of their website dedicated to them. These stainless wire sculptures make the perfect statement piece for the bottom of any garden.
The sculptures are inspired by an inexplicable real life encounter. In 2010 while mending a fence, the founder of Fantasy Wire twisted some old wire together to throw away and thought, “I bet you could use fence wire to make a sculpture.” The first attempt was a fairy for the bottom of the garden. They are still making wire fairies today, but what started as a hobby has grown into a family business.
As well as the fairy sculptures, they also make 2-5m tall, standalone dandelions. If you fancy having a go yourself, they also sell DIY starter kits that teach you how it’s done.
(see our foraging tips for more indepth info on collecting wild plants)
With the abundance of dandelions and the perception of the plant as a weed, dandelion season is almost a unique opportunity to collect a wonderful vibrant-coloured flower without upsetting anyone or, more importantly committing a crime.
Environmental impact – If every school, nursery and parent went out collecting dandelions, there would not be many left for the insects. This is not going to happen, even though the problem would be a nice one to have: ‘ Headline – Too many kids outdoors interacting with nature!’ That being said, it is very important to collect considerately, picking a few from areas with abundance and making sure you do not clear areas. When we collected ours, we wandered across a field filled with dandelions collecting a few here and a few there. The main aspect to consider is whose land you are on and whether the owner would be upset by you collecting dandelions. The easiest way, if you have concerns, would be to ask for permission from the land owner.
The simplest way to gather those gorgeous yellow blooms is to put a finger either side of the stem, beneath the flower, and pull up – watch our wee video to master this technique.
Poem – The Dandelion
by Janet L. Niehaus
I picked a faded dandelion
And blew it in the air
It’s tiny little parachutes
Went floating everywhere. They caught the wind
And danced awhile
Bending to and fro
In splendid ballerina style. Finally as the wind grew still
They floated back to earth
And bedded in the dark warm soil
To start their new rebirth. When next summer comes
And dandelions are everywhere
I’ll pick another faded flower
And blow it in the air.
Poem – The Dandelion Seed
by Angela Wybrow
A gust of wind dislodges it from its bed;
It travels upwards and drifts far overhead.
It climbs on higher and then higher still;
It seems to possess its own free will.
It travels far across the hills and dales,
The fields and forests, the towns and vales.
Over lakes and rivers, it gently does pass –
Lightly reflected in their liquid glass.
Dancing daintily, it catches the eye
Of folk outside, as it tumbles on by.
A kitten spies it and playfully gives chase;
It paints a smile on a young child’s face.
Air currents clash, sending it into a roll;
It ducks and dives, and spins out of control.
Looking like a creature from beneath the sea,
It blows through the air, so wild and so free.
It tumbles onwards across silken sands,
But it is not here that it decides to land.
As it flies on, it keeps watch down below
For the perfect place to be able to grow.
Looking for a place which it can call home,
Across the miles, it purposefully roams.
It finds a place – a place which suits,
And it floats on down to lay its roots.
Its long journey over, it comes to a rest
Upon the spot which it thinks is best.
Once its roots are anchoring it down,
It will become a king with a golden crown.
How do they taste?
Having read that young leaves from plants that haven’t bloomed are the most palatable, I carefully picked some and we gave it a go. It was a resounding ‘thumbs down’ on taste but a big ‘thumbs up’ for giving it a try.
Raw leaves can have a bitter taste. Dandelion leaves can be eaten cooked or raw in various forms, such as in soup or salad. The young leaves are eaten raw in salads, while older leaves are cooked, often boiled twice to extract the bitterness.
For best taste results, pick the flowers in the sunshine when they are fully open. Celebrate the approach of summer with some lovely dandelion recipes such as dandelion jam or fritters.
After my son’s dandelion exploration, I made a big effort to find some dandelion-inspired books and resources. There wasn’t much about at all but I did manage to find this delightful book.
‘The humble dandelion. By roadside or mountainside, it flowers every month of the year throughout the world, a fitting symbol of life. Its journey is our journey, filled with challenge, wonder and beauty. Its story is a mystery too great to fathom.’
Take it further
How about a stop motion animation incorporating dandelions?