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The quiet roar of spring’s first dandelions

Karen Wils photo A butterfly stops to taste dandelion nectar.

ESCANABA — A brave little lion is hiding by the backyard fence.

Even though the cold April winds blow, this tough lion takes root.

This cat claws its way upward and blossoms forth with its fluffy yellow mane even though the nights are still cold.

Nothing is as stubborn as the common dandelion.

This plant can thrive anywhere from a wilderness meadow to a crack in the city sidewalk.

People have both loved and hated this plant for many years.

There are two species of taraxacum, the common dandelion. They are native to Eurasia and North America; I have read that dandelions were brought to America on the Mayflower for their medicinal benefits.

The dandelion got its name from French words meaning “lion’s tooth.” If you’ve ever looked at the jagged leaves of the plant, you will see how they resemble a row of sharp lion’s teeth.

There’s something about a dandelion that reminds us of our youth.

Maybe it’s the sunny, bright-yellow color that brings back our childish grins. Maybe it’s the tenacity of the lion that kids identify with. Dandelions are as strong willed as some children.

After a long cold, colorless winter, what mother is not thrilled to receive a bouquet of dandelions from a son or daughter?

People who like perfect lawns have hunted down wild lions of many years. Unfortunately often folks went after these weeds with chemical sprays to kill them. That left toxins in our environment.

The other old-fashioned way of tackling this plant is with a long tool used to dig out the dandelions tap root. Today we know that the tap root draws nutrients in the soil to the surface for other plants.

The dandelion is very important as an early summer provider of nectar for bees, butterflies and birds. Wild animals like rabbits, hares and deer feast in dandelions too.

Every part of the dandelion plant is edible for humans. The leaves are a very healthy source of vitamins A, C and K. Dandelion flowers can be fermented to make a tasty dry wine. The roots of this plant can be dried and ground to make a good substitute for coffee.

There a many poems written about this little lion.

Health foods stores sell dandelion supplements, dandelion tea and dandelion root.

One of my favorite parts of the dandelion is when the head goes into seed. How many of us as children have made a wish and then blown the fuzzy dandelion seeds into the wind?

Find a dandelion and make a wish. Let the lion roar and let summertime begin.

——

Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.

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