The common dandelion was native to Europe but now can be found nearly everywhere. Hundreds of species exist in the rangeland, pastures, meadows, lawns, and wastelands of Europe, Asia, and North America. As many homeowners can attest, dandelion is a hardy perennial able to grow nearly a foot high.
Each flower head consists of hundreds of tiny ray flowers formed as a rosette above the central taproot. Dandelion flowers are sensitive to light, so they open with the sun in the morning and close in the evening.
The name dandelion comes from French word dentdelion, literally meaning "tooth of the lion." Dandelions are believed to have evolved about thirty million years ago and have been used by humans as an herb and for food through much of recorded history. They are believed to have been introduced to North America by early European immigrants.
Dandelions are surprisingly useful. The young leaves resemble chicory and are commonly used as salad greens, especially in Europe. The roots can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute; the flower heads are used for dandelion wine; and the roots have traditionally been dried and used as a bitter tonic or laxative.
- Dandelion has been traditionally used in Native American and Chinese health practices.
- Here's what a homeowner spraying pesticide on his dandelions probably doesn't know: Dandelion leaves contain vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, C and K.
- Dandelions are a source of calcium, potassium, copper, iron, manganese, luteolin (an antioxidant) and about two dozen other nutrients. They are also a source of beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, and contain carbohydrates, proteins and fiber.
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