Taraxacum (/təˈræksəkʊm/) is a large genus of flowering plants in
the family Asteraceae, which consists of species commonly known as
dandelions. They are native to
Eurasia and North America, but the two
commonplace species worldwide, T. officinale and
T. erythrospermum, were introduced from
Europe and now propagate
as wildflowers. Both species are edible in their entirety. The
common name dandelion (/ˈdændɪlaɪ.ən/ DAN-di-ly-ən, from French
dent-de-lion, meaning "lion's tooth") is given to members of the
genus. Like other members of the
Asteraceae family, they have very
small flowers collected together into a composite flower head. Each
single flower in a head is called a floret. In part due to their
abundance along with being a generalist species, dandelions are one of
the most vital early spring nectar sources for a wide host of
Taraxacum species produce seeds asexually by
apomixis, where the seeds are produced without pollination, resulting
in offspring that are genetically identical to the parent plant.
1.1 Seed dispersal
1.2 False dandelions
2.1 Selected species
5.2 Medicinal uses
5.3 Food for wildlife
5.4 Benefits to gardeners
5.5 Cultural importance
5.7 As a noxious weed
5.8 As source of natural rubber
7 External links
The species of
Taraxacum are tap-rooted, perennial, herbaceous plants,
native to temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere. The genus
contains many species, which usually (or in the case of triploids,
obligately) reproduce by apomixis, resulting in many local populations
and endemism. In the British Isles alone, 234 microspecies are
recognised in 9 loosely defined sections, of which 40 are "probably
In general, the leaves are 5–25 cm long or longer, simple,
lobed, and form a basal rosette above the central taproot. The flower
heads are yellow to orange coloured, and are open in the daytime, but
closed at night. The heads are borne singly on a hollow stem (scape)
that is usually leafless and rises 1–10 cm or more above the
leaves. Stems and leaves exude a white, milky latex when broken. A
rosette may produce several flowering stems at a time. The flower
heads are 2–5 cm in diameter and consist entirely of ray
florets. The flower heads mature into spherical seed heads called
blowballs or clocks (in both British and American
English) containing many single-seeded fruits called
achenes. Each achene is attached to a pappus of fine hairs, which
enable wind-aided dispersal over long distances.
The flower head is surrounded by bracts (sometimes mistakenly called
sepals) in two series. The inner bracts are erect until the seeds
mature, then flex downward to allow the seeds to disperse. The outer
bracts are often reflexed downward, but remain appressed in plants of
the sections Palustria and Spectabilia. Some species drop the
parachute from the achenes; the hair-like parachutes are called
pappus, and they are modified sepals. Between the pappus and the
achene is a stalk called a beak, which elongates as the fruit matures.
The beak breaks off from the achene quite easily, separating the seed
from the parachute.
Segment of pappus fiber showing barbs
A number of species of
Taraxacum are seed-dispersed ruderals that
rapidly colonize disturbed soil, especially the common dandelion
(T. officinale), which has been introduced over much of the
temperate world. After flowering is finished, the dandelion flower
head dries out for a day or two. The dried petals and stamens drop
off, the bracts reflex (curve backwards), and the parachute ball opens
into a full sphere.
Hawksbeard flower heads and ripe seeds are sometimes confused with
Many similar plants in the
Asteraceae family with yellow flowers are
sometimes known as false dandelions. Dandelions are very similar to
catsears (Hypochaeris). Both plants carry similar flowers, which form
into windborne seeds. However, dandelion flowers are borne singly on
unbranched, hairless and leafless, hollow stems, while catsear
flowering stems are branched, solid, and carry bracts. Both plants
have a basal rosette of leaves and a central taproot. However, the
leaves of dandelions are smooth or glabrous, whereas those of catsears
are coarsely hairy.
Early-flowering dandelions may be distinguished from coltsfoot
(Tussilago farfara) by their basal rosette of leaves, their lack of
disc florets, and the absence of scales on the flowering stem.
Other plants with superficially similar flowers include hawkweeds
(Hieracium) and hawksbeards (Crepis). These are readily distinguished
by branched flowering stems, which are usually hairy and bear leaves.
The genus is taxonomically complex, with some botanists dividing the
group into about 34 macrospecies, and about 2000 microspecies;
about 235 apomictic and polyploid microspecies have been recorded in
Great Britain and Ireland. Some botanists take a much narrower
view and only accept a total of about 60 species.
Taraxacum albidum, a white-flowering Japanese dandelion
Taraxacum aphrogenes, Paphos dandelion
Taraxacum brevicorniculatum, frequently misidentified as Taraxacum
kok-saghyz, and a poor rubber producer
Taraxacum californicum, the endangered California dandelion
Taraxacum centrasiaticum, the Xinjiang dandelion
Taraxacum ceratophorum, northern dandelion
Taraxacum erythrospermum, often considered a variety of T.
Taraxacum farinosum, Turkish dandelion
Taraxacum holmboei, Troödos dandelion
Taraxacum japonicum, Japanese dandelion, no ring of smallish,
downward-turned leaves under the flowerhead
Taraxacum kok-saghyz, Russian dandelion, which produces rubber
Taraxacum laevigatum, red-seeded dandelion, achenes reddish brown and
leaves deeply cut throughout length, inner bracts' tips are hooded
Taraxacum officinale (syn. T. officinale subsp. vulgare), common
dandelion. Found in many forms.
Taraxacum platycarpum, the Korean dandelion
'Amélioré à Coeur Plein' yields an abundant crop without taking up
much ground, and tends to blanch itself naturally, due to its clumping
'Broad-leaved' - The leaves are thick and tender and easily blanched.
In rich soils, they can be up to 60 cm wide. Plants do not go to
seed as quickly as French types.
'Vert de Montmagny' is a large-leaved, vigorous grower, which matures
Dandelions are thought to have evolved about 30 million years ago in
Fossil seeds of †
Taraxacum tanaiticum have been
recorded from the
Pliocene of southern Russia. Dandelions have
been used by humans for food and as an herb for much of recorded
history. They were well known to ancient Egyptians, Greeks and
Romans, and have been used in Chinese traditional medicine for over a
thousand years. Dandelions probably arrived in North America on the
Mayflower—not as stowaways, but brought on purpose for their
Despite its useful properties, the dandelion is commonly regarded as a
weed, as a result of the rise of lawn culture and marketing by
Leaf resemblance to lion tooth
The Latin name
Taraxacum originates in medieval Persian writings on
pharmacy. The Persian scientist
Al-Razi around 900 CE wrote "the
tarashaquq is like chicory". The Persian scientist and philosopher Ibn
Sīnā around 1000 CE wrote a book chapter on Taraxacum. Gerard of
Cremona, in translating Arabic to Latin around 1170, spelled it
The English name, dandelion, is a corruption of the French dent de
lion meaning "lion's tooth", referring to the coarsely toothed
leaves. The plant is also known as blowball, cankerwort,
doon-head-clock, witch's gowan, milk witch, lion's-tooth,
yellow-gowan, Irish daisy, monks-head, priest's-crown, and
puff-ball; other common names include faceclock, pee-a-bed,
wet-a-bed, swine's snout, white endive, and wild endive.
The English folk name "piss-a-bed" (and indeed the equivalent
contemporary French pissenlit) refers to the strong diuretic effect of
the plant's roots. In various northeastern Italian dialects, the
plant is known as pisacan ("dog pisses"), because they are found at
the side of pavements.
In Swedish, it is called maskros (worm rose) after the small insects
(thrips) usually present in the flowers. In Finnish and Estonian,
the names (voikukka, võilill) translate as butter flower, due to the
color of the flower. In Lithuanian, it is known as "Pienė", meaning
"milky", because of the white latex that is produced when the stems
are cut. The Welsh (dant-y-llew), German (Löwenzahn), Norwegian
(løvetann) and Spanish (diente de león) names mean the same as the
French and the English names.
Hand coloured print, plate 1 of Dens Leonis in A Curious Herbal, 1737
by Elizabeth Blackwell
1679 hand coloured print by
Maria Sibylla Merian
Maria Sibylla Merian of a dandelion as
plant host to the pale tussock moth.
The entire plant, including the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots are
edible, and have much nutritional value. Dandelions are found on all
continents and have been gathered for food since prehistory, but the
varieties cultivated for consumption are mainly native to Eurasia. A
perennial plant, its leaves grow back if the taproot is left intact.
To make leaves more palatable, they are often blanched to remove
bitterness, or sauteed in the same way as spinach. Dandelion
leaves and buds have been a part of traditional Kashmiri cuisine,
Albanian cuisine, Slovenian, Sephardic, Chinese, and Korean cuisines.
In Crete, the leaves of a variety called 'Mari' (Μαρί), 'Mariaki'
(Μαριάκι), or 'Koproradiko' (Κοπροράδικο) are eaten
by locals, either raw or boiled, in salads. T. megalorhizon, a species
endemic to Crete, is eaten in the same way; it is found only at high
altitudes (1000 to 1600 m) and in fallow sites, and is called
pentaramia (πενταράμια) or agrioradiko
The flower petals, along with other ingredients, usually including
citrus, are used to make dandelion wine. The ground, roasted roots can
be used as a caffeine-free dandelion coffee. Dandelion was also
traditionally used to make the traditional British soft drink
dandelion and burdock, and is one of the ingredients of root beer.
Also, dandelions were once delicacies eaten by the Victorian gentry,
mostly in salads and sandwiches.
Dandelion leaves contain abundant vitamins and minerals, especially
vitamins A, C, and K, and are good sources of calcium, potassium,
iron, and manganese.
Taraxacum officinale § Herbal_medicine
Historically, dandelion was prized for a variety of medicinal
properties, and it contains a number of pharmacologically active
compounds. Dandelion is used as a herbal remedy in Europe, North
America, and China. It has been used in herbal medicine to treat
infections, bile and liver problems, and as a diuretic.
Dandelion has been used as a medicinal plant for thousands of years to
treat inflammation, swollen lymph nodes, cysts and abscesses, as well
detoxifying the kidney and liver.
Food for wildlife
Taraxacum seeds are an important food source for certain birds.
Dandelions are also important plants for Northern Hemisphere bees,
providing an important source of nectar and pollen early in the
season. Dandelions are used as food plants by the larvae of some
Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). They are also used as
a source of nectar by the pearl-bordered fritillary (Boloria
euphrosyne), one of the earliest emerging butterflies in the spring.
Benefits to gardeners
The dandelion plant is a beneficial weed, with a wide range of uses,
and is even a good companion plant for gardening. Its taproot brings
up nutrients for shallower-rooting plants, and adds minerals and
nitrogen to soil. It is also known to attract pollinating insects and
release ethylene gas, which helps fruit to ripen.
Four dandelion flowers are the emblem of White Sulphur Springs, West
Virginia. The citizens celebrate spring with an annual Dandelion
The dandelion is the official flower of the University of Rochester
and "Dandelion Yellow" is one of the school's official colors. "The
Dandelion Yellow" is an official
University of Rochester
University of Rochester song.
Dandelion pollen may cause allergic reactions when eaten, or adverse
skin reactions in sensitive individuals.
Contact dermatitis after
handling has also been reported, probably from the latex in the stems
and leaves.[medical citation needed] Due to its high potassium
level, dandelion can also increase the risk of hyperkalemia when taken
with potassium-sparing diuretics.
As a noxious weed
Dandelions are considered an invasive plant in Alaska, and thrive in
the long hours of daylight in summer there, such as this tall
specimen, at 85 centimetres (33 in)
The species T. officinale is listed as a noxious weed in some
jurisdictions, and is considered a nuisance in residential and
recreational lawns in North America. It is also an important weed
in agriculture and causes significant economic damage because of its
infestation in many crops worldwide.
As source of natural rubber
Dandelions secrete latex when the tissues are cut or broken, yet in
the wild type, the latex content is low and varies greatly. Using
modern cultivation methods and optimization techniques, scientists in
the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology
(IME) in Germany developed a cultivar that is suitable for commercial
production of natural rubber. The latex produced exhibits the same
quality as the natural rubber from rubber trees. In collaboration
with Continental Tires, IME is building a pilot facility. As of May
2014, the first prototype test tires made with blends from
dandelion-rubber are scheduled for testing on public roads over the
next few years.
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