Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Occurrence in North America
HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD
MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ
NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC
SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY
AB BC MB NB NF NT NS ON PQ SK
the United States. It occurs in all 50 states, almost all Canadian
provinces, and Mexico [62,126].
Regional Distribution in the Western United States
This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):
1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
Common dandelion is an introduced, cool-season, perennial forb . It has a
thick taproot up to 6 inches (15.2 cm) long . Stems are very short
and wholly underground, producing a rosette of leaves at the ground
surface. Leaves are 2 to 16 inches (5-40 cm) long . The flower
heads are solitary at the end of naked, hollow stalks. Stalks can reach
heights up to 2 feet (60 cm) [126,135]. One head contains from 100 to
300 flowers . Seeds of common dandelion are topped by a parachute of
bristles that aid in dissemination .
Common dandelion forms vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal associations
Common dandelion tolerates a wide range of site and soil conditions, but it
most commonly occurs in disturbed areas such as cut-over or burned
forests, avalanche areas, overgrazed ranges, and marshy floodplains
[54,133]. It also occurs sites on highway and railroad rights-of-way,
waste places, old fields, pastures, and lawns [114,126].
Common dandelion occurs on soils that vary from thin layers above permafrost in
the subarctic to deep loams in the western United States [37,114]. Soil
texture ranges from clays and clayey loams to sandy loams. Common dandelion
does poorly on dense clay soils, saline soils, and acidic soils .
Common dandelion occurs on flat to rolling topography or moderate to steep
slopes [27,37]. It is found from sea level to high alpine elevations
. Regional elevational distributions are as follows [27,37,99]:
Utah 4,100-11,300 1,250-3,445
Colorado 4,500-13,500 1,372-4,115
Wyoming 4,100- 9,600 1,250-2,926
Montana 2,900- 9,200 884-2,804
Washington 2,574- 2,722 780-825
Oregon 7,095- 7,920 2,150-2,400
Alberta 4,323- 6,336 1,310-1,920
Common shrubs, grasses, and forbs associated with common dandelion include
common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), Wood's rose (Rosa woodsii),
russet buffalo berry (Shepherdia canadensis), blueberry (Vaccinium spp.),
chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), black sagebrush (Artemisia arbuscula
nova), Wyoming big sagebrush (A. tridentata ssp. wyomingensis),
Oregon-grape (Mahonia repens), rough fescue (Festuca scabrella), Idaho
fescue (F. idahoensis), slender wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus),
prairie Junegrass (Koeleria cristata), timber danthonia (Danthonia
intermedia), Richardson's needlegrass (Stipa richardsonii), timothy
(Phleum pratense), tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa), Kentucky
bluegrass (Poa pratensis), aster (Aster spp.), willowweed (Epilobium
spp.), prairiesmoke avens (Geum triflorum), small-leaf angelica
(Angelica pinnata), Colorado columbine (Aquilegia caerula),
rhexia-leaved paintbrush (Castilleja leonardii), Oregon fleabane
(Erigeron speciousus), wallflower (Erysimum elatum), one-flower
helianthella (Helianthella uniflora), Utah peavine (Lathyrus utahensis),
and Richardson geranium (Geranium richardsonii) [32,83,117,124,129].
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
More info for the term: cover
Common dandelion is found in nearly all SAF cover types.
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
Dandelion is found in nearly all Kuchler Plant Associations.
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES23 Fir - spruce
FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe
FRES34 Chaparral - mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon - juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES40 Desert grasslands
FRES41 Wet grasslands
FRES42 Annual grasslands
Key Plant Community Associations
Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington [51,137].
Flower-Visiting Insects of Dandelion in Illinois
(Bees suck nectar or collect pollen; beetle activity is unspecified; other insects suck nectar. Observations are from Krombein et al., Fothergill & Vaughn, MacRae, Grundel et al., and Robertson as indicated below; Robertson's observations occurred during the spring)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn cp fq (Rb); Apidae (Bombini): Bombus impatiens sn (Rb); Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina calcarata (Gnd); Anthophoridae (Nomadini): Nomada denticulata sn (Rb); Megachilidae (Osmiini): Osmia lignaria lignaria sn (Rb), Osmia pumila sn (Rb)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea sn cp (Rb), Augochlora pura (Gnd), Halictus ligatus sn cp (Rb), Lasioglossum cressonii (Gnd), Lasioglossum pectorale (Gnd), Lasioglossum versatus sn fq (Rb); Colletidae (Colletinae): Colletes inaequalis (Kr); Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena arabis (Kr), Andrena barbilabris (Kr), Andrena ceanothi (Kr), Andrena cressonii sn (Rb), Andrena dunningi sn (Rb), Andrena erythrogaster (Kr), Andrena erythronii cp (Kr), Andrena forbesii (Kr), Andrena hippotes (Kr), Andrena illinoiensis (Kr), Andrena imitatrix imitatrix (Kr), Andrena melanochroa (Kr), Andrena miranda (Kr), Andrena miserabilis bipunctata sn fq (Rb, Kr), Andrena nigrifrons (Kr), Andrena perplexa (Kr), Andrena persimulata (Kr), Andrena rugosa (Kr), Andrena sigmundi (Kr), Andrena thaspii (Kr)
Syrphidae: Eristalinus aeneus (Rb); Bombyliidae: Bombylius fascipennis (Rb), Bombylius major (Rb); Muscidae: Neomyia cornicina (Rb); Fanniidae: Fannia manicata (Rb)
Papilionidae: Papilio glaucus (FV), Papilio marcellus (FV), Papilio troilus (FV); Nymphalidae: Danaus plexippus (FV), Vanessa cardui (FV), Vanessa virginiensis (Rb); Lycaenidae: Strymon melinus (FV); Pieridae: Anthocharis midea (FV), Colias eurytheme (FV), Nathalis iole (FV), Phoebis sennae (FV), Pontia protodice (FV)
Hesperiidae: Erynnis horatius (FV), Erynnis juvenalis (FV), Hylephila phyleus (FV), Poanes zabulon (FV)
Buprestidae: Acmaeodera neglecta (McR), Acmaeodera ornata (McR), Acmaeodera tubulus (McR)
Foodplant / feeds on
adult of Aeolothrips tenuicornis feeds on live flower of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Foodplant / spot causer
few, epiphyllous, scattered, blackish-brown pycnidium of Ascochyta coelomycetous anamorph of Ascochyta taraxaci causes spots on live leaf of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Remarks: season: 8
Foodplant / parasite
sporangium of Bremia lactucae parasitises live Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Other: unusual host/prey
Plant / resting place / within
puparium of Chromatomyia farfarella may be found in leaf-mine of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Ensina sonchi feeds within capitulum of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Foodplant / spot causer
amphigenous colony of Ramularia hyphomycetous anamorph of Mycosphaerella hieracii causes spots on live leaf of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Remarks: season: 9-10
Foodplant / visitor
adult of Myopa visits for nectar and/or pollen flower of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Paroxyna producta feeds within capitulum of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Remarks: Other: uncertain
Foodplant / miner
larva of Phytomyza wahlgreni mines leaf (mid-rib) of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Other: sole host/prey
Foodplant / parasite
Podosphaera fusca parasitises live Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Foodplant / gall
chlamydospore of Protomyces pachydermus causes gall of live peduncle of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Foodplant / parasite
aecium of Puccinia dioicae var. silvatica parasitises live Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Remarks: Other: uncertain
Foodplant / parasite
telium of Puccinia hieracii var. hieracii parasitises live Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Foodplant / parasite
telium of Puccinia variabilis parasitises live leaf of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Foodplant / gall
sorus of Synchytrium taraxaci causes gall of live phyllary of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Foodplant / feeds on
male of Thrips hukkineni feeds on live flower of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Remarks: season: 5,7-9
Foodplant / feeds on
female of Thrips physapus feeds on live flower of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Remarks: season: 5,7-9
Foodplant / feeds on
adult of Thrips tabaci feeds on live flower of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Foodplant / feeds on
adult of Thrips validus feeds on live flower of Taraxacum officinale agg. sensu lato
Remarks: season: 4-9
Based on studies in:
USA: California, Cabrillo Point (Grassland)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
- L. D. Harris and L. Paur, A quantitative food web analysis of a shortgrass community, Technical Report No. 154, Grassland Biome. U.S. International Biological Program (1972), from p. 17.
Fire Management Considerations
Late spring burning in the tallgrass prairies of Kansas reduced
common dandelion cover compared with burning at earlier dates. In shortgrass
prairies of western Kansas, common dandelion was less affected by dormant
season (fall and winter) burns than by spring burns . Burning to
decrease cover of common dandelion on rangelands should be done in the spring
after growth initiation. Annual burning in March or November in
Nebraska resulted in the highest total cover of common dandelion. Burning in
April decreased cover .
Following logging, bulldozing, and slash burning, common dandelion will
establish in the open spots .
Common dandelion competes with tree seedlings on burned sites. Grasses
aerially seeded on burns may compete with and displace common dandelion. After
4 to 5 years of grass seeding on sites in Montana common dandelion populations
eventually decreased .
Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire
Lyon's Research Paper, Hamilton's Research Papers
(Hamilton 2006a, Hamilton 2006b), and the following Research
Project Summaries also provide information on prescribed fire use
and postfire response of many plant species including common dandelion:
- Effects of fall and spring prescribed burning in sagebrush steppe in east-central Oregon
- Understory recovery after low- and high-intensity fires in northern Idaho ponderosa
- Vegetation response to restoration treatments in ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir
forests of western Montana
- Vegetation changes following prescription fires in quaking aspen stands of Colorado's
- Effects of surface fires in a mixed red and eastern white pine stand in Michigan
Plant Response to Fire
Common dandelion generally establishes during the first or second postfire
year. It usually increases in frequency after fire [22,36,41]. One
year after a spring burn (May 24, 1983) in Galena Gulch, Montana,
common dandelion showed a 50 percent increase in frequency, but by the second
year showed only a 47.5 percent increase over the prefire level .
Common dandelion increased in frequency following a fire in 1974 in a Scotch
pine forest in Scotland, but by postfire year 4, frequency started to
decrease. Maximum frequency occurred at 3 years after fire .
Common dandelion frequency was greater in burned than in unburned oak
communities in Utah . Following a prescribed fire in a Douglas-fir
stand in south-central Idaho, common dandelion frequency increased
significantly by postfire year 2. Prefire frequency was 8 percent; at
postfire year 1 frequency was 4 percent; and at postfire year 2
frequency was 24 percent .
In the Hedges Mountain area of the Helena National Forest, Montana, a
sagebrush/rough fescue habitat type was burned in spring (May) and fall
(September). Prefire and postfire community types, as named by the
dominant species, were compared. Following the spring burn, bluegrass
and common dandelion were the dominant species during both postfire years 1 and
2. Following the fall burn, the dominant species during postfire year 1
were bluegrass, mountain brome (Bromus marginatus), and common dandelion. By
postfire year 2, common dandelion was no longer a dominant; the site was
dominated by bluegrass, Wood's rose, and common snowberry .
A fire on June 28, 1977 in Montana in a rough fescue community minimally
disrupted reproduction and carbohydrate production of common dandelion. Its
frequency increased slightly on burned sites by the summer of 1978 .
In the timbered breaks along the Missouri River in central Montana,
common dandelion was favored by big game animals every postfire year except
year 28. At postfire year 17 common dandelion was found at high frequencies.
First peak in frequency occurred at postfire year 4 .
On ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir communities in the Blue Mountains
of northeastern Oregon, common dandelion cover and frequency were higher
on unburned control sites than on prescribed burned, thinned, or
thinned-and-burned sites. Common dandelion was determined to be an indicator
species for unburned sites (P≤0.05). For further information on the effects
of thinning and burning treatments on common dandelion and 48 other species,
see the Research Project Summary of Youngblood and others'  study.
Immediate Effect of Fire
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)
Caudex, growing points in soil
regions with variable FIRE REGIMES. Common dandelion is primarily adapted to
fire through its prolific production of wind-dispersed seed . Site
colonization after fires occurs in many forested areas because of
common dandelion's persistent, viable seed bank .
More info for the terms: climax, competition, marsh, tree
Common dandelion is an important colonizer following vegetation disturbances in
temperate climates throughout North America [85,99]. Although the role
of common dandelion as an early seral species does not change, the length of
time common dandelion populations are present varies among ecosystems.
Common dandelion enters a disturbed community and rapidly becomes abundant. It
may achieve a peak in dominance within 2 to 3 years [7,14]. Holland
found common dandelion to be a transitory colonist of marsh habitats in
Massachusetts; it was found for 10 years after the disturbance and then
Common dandelion was one of the earliest colonizers after tree harvesting in a
maple-beech-birch ecosystem in Michigan . On an abandoned farmland
in Arizona, common dandelion was one of the predominant species following
winter precipitation . Common dandelion was a pioneer species on a
brine-killed forest site after elimination of brine discharge on the
site in the spring of 1982 . On a Douglas-fir clearcut in Colorado,
common dandelion was a dominant species in the understory the second year after
cutting but was not present in the initial community . Common dandelion is
not a member of the climax plant community on rangelands since it cannot
withstand competition for moisture, nutrients, and light with the climax
vegetation. It invades these areas after the preferred species have
been removed by overgrazing .
Common dandelion reproduces apomictically through parthenogenesis . Plants
develop from unfertilized gametes. Common dandelion is an aggressive seed
producer and reproduces mainly from seed . Seeds travel a
considerable distance because of the parachuting effect produced by the
spreading pappus. In a tallgrass prairie in Iowa, achenes of common dandelion
were blown by the wind several hundred meters from the nearest source
Common dandelion creates a long-lived seedbank [11,99]. In a seedbank of a
ponderosa pine community in Washington, viable common dandelion seedlings
emerged from litter and soil samples in greenhouse germination trials.
Seed density of spring samples was 160 seeds per square yard (133
seeds/m sq) and of autumn samples was 60 seeds per square yard (50
seeds/m sq) . Seeds of common dandelion were viable up to 5 years in soil
samples from Montana . Seed germination on a control plot in
Wisconsin was inhibited by thick mulch. Light mulch that remained on a
mowed plot also reduced germination . Germination was highest on a
burned plot .
Vegetative: Common dandelion sprouts from the caudex after disturbance
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
Life History and Behavior
Common dandelion is one of the earliest spring bloomers on western rangelands
. It flowers from March to late fall in most states and will
flower throughout the year in warmer areas . General first
flowering dates are from April 28 to May 19, and sometimes earlier in
some locations . By mid-June, common dandelion has reached its maximum
bloom stage, and the seeds from earlier flowering dates are mostly
disseminated. By mid-July, all seeds are disseminated .
Reported dates for anthesis in some states are as follows [16,37,100]:
North Dakota April-June
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Taraxacum officinale
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Taraxacum officinale
Public Records: 6
Specimens with Barcodes: 23
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Common dandelion is an invader species that commonly inhabits overgrazed
rangelands . Common dandelion availability for deer decreases on
cattle-grazed sites .
Common dandelion meets the nutritional requirements of beef cattle and is
readily grazed by them . Producers may want to control common dandelion in
irrigated pastures to restrict seed movement to adjacent land where
common dandelion may be undesirable .
Common dandelion is a threat in upper forest and alpine zones of western
Montana because of its ability to invade little disturbed or undisturbed
native vegetation through seed dispersal . In Montana, common dandelion
seedlings compete with conifer seedlings on forest sites. Grass seeding
on these sites will eventually decrease the common dandelion population in 4 to
5 years .
Clearcuts and thinning of forests stimulates common dandelion production. Sage
grouse and deer populations benefit from increased production of
common dandelion . Sage grouse habitat loss due to development and
postdevelopment land use can be minimized by regulation of livestock on
important adjacent nondeveloped lands .
Common dandelion can be readily controlled with 2,4-D. It is most effective to
spray in early spring before first bloom. Sites should not be mown for
3 to 5 days before spraying or 1 to 2 days after .
Strip spraying in Idaho in relatively high annual precipitation (13
inches [33 cm]) areas benefits sage grouse brood-rearing habitat due to
quick recovery of common dandelion and other forbs. Average cover of common dandelion
in sprayed areas was 17.2 percent, whereas average cover in nonsprayed
areas was 11.2 percent .
A decrease in the population of common dandelion occurs where pocket gophers
are present. When gophers were removed, common dandelion population increased
by 50 percent in 2 years on mountain grasslands and meadows of Colorado,
Utah, and Oregon .
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
body maintenance for deer in ponderosa pine communities . Common dandelion
meets the nutritional requirements of beef cattle in Alberta .
Protein and manganese content increase from early June to early July,
when it is harvested on ranges in Alberta. By late September, protein
content decreases significantly .
Chemical composition (in percent) of common dandelion from an irrigated pasture
during 1986 was as follows :
June 3 July 7 September 24 Average
Acid detergent fiber 28.1 22.4 25.8 25.4
Crude protein 13.8 22.8 14.7 17.1
Ca 1.21 1.55 1.61 1.46
P 0.30 0.48 0.29 0.36
Mg 0.31 0.47 0.50 0.43
K 2.58 2.24 2.46 2.43
than in postbloom stages . It is poor to fair in palatability on
ponderosa pine sites throughout the West .
Palatability ratings for common dandelion from selected western states are as
UT CO WY MT ND
Cattle good good fair fair good
Sheep good good good good good
Horses good good fair good good
Elk good ---- good good ----
Mule deer good ---- good fair fair
White-tailed deer ---- ---- good fair fair
Pronghorn good ---- good good fair
Upland game birds good ---- good good good
Waterfowl fair ---- poor ---- good
Small nongame birds fair ---- fair fair fair
Small mammals good ---- fair fair fair
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
Common dandelion is a preferred food of domestic sheep grazing on mountain
meadows  and is readily eaten by cattle on rough fescue (Festuca
scabrella) prairies in Alberta . Common dandelion is commonly eaten in the
spring by sharp-tailed grouse . It is a minor component of bighorn
sheep diets in the Upper Yellowstone Valley  and is an important
food for pocket gophers on mountain grasslands of Colorado .
Common dandelion is an important source of nectar and pollen for bees in Alaska
. Common dandelion is consumed by deer and elk in the spring, summer, and
fall in meadows of the Rocky Mountains .
In Yellowstone National Park, common dandelion is an important food for grizzly
bears in summer. Peak use in in June . Leaves, stems, seeds, and
flowers were found in grizzly and black bear scats in Glacier National
In Alberta, black bears browse on earlier phenological stages of
common dandelion (spring and early summer) because of the higher nutrient
quality. Common dandelion is one of the dominant species found in spring bear
During prenesting through incubation of greater prairie chicken broods
(April-May) on the Sheyenne National Grasslands in North Dakota,
common dandelion flowers were one of the primary diet items. Individual fecal
samples contained up to 96 percent common dandelion flowers during April and
Common dandelion is one of the favored foods of sage grouse in the spring,
summer, and fall in Nevada. Of all meadow forbs consumed, common dandelion
contributed 82 percent to spring forb diets [40,67].
In British Columbia, deer consumed common dandelion at significantly higher
(P less than 0.05) rates on harvested lodgepole pine sites than on unharvested
Other uses and values
leaves of common dandelion in salads or boil and eat them . Roots of
common dandelion can be ground and used as a mild laxative or to treat
heartburn. Tea and wine can be made from flowers .
Taraxacum officinale, the common dandelion (often simply called "dandelion"), is a flowering herbaceous perennial plant of the family Asteraceae (Compositae). It can be found growing in temperate regions of the world, in lawns, on roadsides, on disturbed banks and shores of water ways, and other areas with moist soils. T. officinale is considered a weed, especially in lawns and along roadsides, but it is sometimes used as a medical herb and in food preparation. Common dandelion is well known for its yellow flower heads that turn into round balls of silver tufted fruits that disperse in the wind called "blowballs" or "clocks" (in both British and American English).
Taraxacum officinale grows from generally unbranched taproots and produces one to more than ten stems that are typically 5–40 cm (2.0–15.7 in) tall, but sometimes up to 70 cm (28 in) tall. The stems can be tinted purplish, they are upright or lax, and produce flower heads that are held as tall or taller than the foliage. The foliage may be upright-growing or horizontally spreading; the leaves have petioles that are either unwinged or narrowly winged. The stems can be glabrous or sparsely covered with short hairs. Plants have milky latex and the leaves are all basal; each flowering stem lacks bracts and has one single flower head. The yellow flower heads lack receptacle bracts and all the flowers, which are called florets, are ligulate and bisexual. The fruits are mostly produced by apomixis.
The leaves are 5–45 cm (2.0–17.7 in) long and 1–10 cm (0.39–3.94 in) wide, and are oblanceolate, oblong, or obovate in shape, with the bases gradually narrowing to the petiole. The leaf margins are typically shallowly lobed to deeply lobed and often lacerate or toothed with sharp or dull teeth.
The calyculi (the cuplike bracts that hold the florets) are composed of 12 to 18 segments: each segment is reflexed and sometimes glaucous. The lanceolate shaped bractlets are in two series, with the apices acuminate in shape. The 14–25 mm (0.55–0.98 in) wide involucres are green to dark green or brownish-green, with the tips dark gray or purplish. The florets number 40 to over 100 per head, having corollas that are yellow or orange-yellow in color.
The fruits, called cypselae, range in color from olive-green or olive-brown to straw-colored to grayish, they are oblanceoloid in shape and 2–3 mm (0.079–0.118 in) long with slender beaks. The fruits have 4 to 12 ribs that have sharp edges. The silky pappi, which form the parachutes, are white to silver-white in color and around 6 mm wide. Plants typically have 24 or 40 pairs of chromosomes but some plants have 16 or 32 chromosomes.
North American dandelions
The taxonomy of the genus Taraxacum is complicated by apomictic and polyploid lineages, and the taxonomy and nomenclatural situation of Taraxacum officinale is not yet fully resolved, The taxonomy of this genus has in been complicated by the recognition of numerous species, subspecies and microspecies. E.g. Rothmaler's flora of Germany recognizes roughly 70 microspecies. The plants introduced to North America are triploids that reproduce by obligate gametophytic apomixis Some authorities recognize three subspecies of Taraxacum officinale including:
- Taraxacum officinale ssp. ceratophorum (Ledeb.) Schinz ex Thellung which is commonly called common dandelion, fleshy dandelion, horned dandelion or rough dandelion. It is native to Canada and the western US. Some sources list it as a species, Taraxacum ceratophorum.
- Taraxacum officinale ssp. officinale, which is commonly called common dandelion or wandering dandelion.
- Taraxacum officinale ssp. vulgare (Lam.) Schinz & R. Keller, which is commonly called common dandelion.
Two of them have been introduced and established in Alaska and the third (ssp. ceratophorum ) is native there.
Taraxacum officinale L. (dandelion) is a vigorous weed in Europe with diploid sexual populations in the southern regions and partially overlapping populations of diploid sexuals and triploid or tetraploid apomicts in the central and northern regions. These European dandelions can be divided into two groups. The first group reproduces sexually as do most seed plants. This group consists of dandelions that have a diploid set of chromosomes, and are sexually self-incompatible. Sexual reproduction involves a reduction of the somatic chromosome number by meiosis followed by a restoration of the somatic chromosome number by fertilization. Diploid dandelions have eight pairs of chromosomes, and meiosis is regular with normal pairing of homologous chromosomes at the metaphase I stage of meiosis.
The second group consists of polyploid (mostly triploid) apomicts, meaning that both a viable embryo as well as a functional endosperm is formed without prior fertilization. In contrast to the sexual diploids, the pairing of chromosomes at metaphase I in triploid apomicts is strongly reduced. However pairing is still sufficient to allow some recombination between homologous chromosomes.
Taraxacum officinale has many English common names (of which some are no longer in use), including blowball, lion's-tooth, cankerwort, milk-witch, 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.
Carl Linnaeus named the species Leontodon Taraxacum in 1753. The genus name Taraxacum, possibly from the Arabic word "Tharakhchakon", or from the Greek word "Tarraxos". The common name "dandelion," comes from the French phrase "dent de lion" which means "lion's tooth", in reference to the jagged shaped foliage.
Taraxacum officinale is native to Eurasia, and now is naturalized throughout North America, southern Africa, South America, New Zealand, Australia, and India. It occurs in all 50 states of the USA and most Canadian provinces. It is considered a noxious weed in some jurisdictions, and is considered to be 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.
The dandelion is a common colonizer of disturbed habitats, both from wind blown seeds and seed germination from the seed bank. The seeds remain viable in the seed bank for many years, with one study showing germination after nine years. This species is a somewhat prolific seed producer, with 54 to 172 seeds produced per head, and a single plant can produce more than 5,000 seeds a year. It is estimated that more than 97,000,000 seeds/hectare could be produced yearly by a dense stand of dandelions. When released, the seeds can be spread by the wind up to several hundred meters from their source. The seeds are also a common contaminant in crop and forage seeds. The plants are adaptable to most soils and the seeds are not dependent on cold temperatures before they will germinate but they need to be within the top 2.5 cm (0.98 in) of soil.
While not in bloom, this species is sometimes confused with others, such as Chondrilla juncea, that have similar basal rosettes of foliage. Another plant, sometimes referred to as Fall Dandelion, is very similar to dandelion, but produces "yellow fields" later.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||188 kJ (45 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||3.5 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.|
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.|
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
While the dandelion is considered a weed by many gardeners and lawn owners, the plant has several culinary and medicinal uses. The specific name officinalis refers to its value as a medicinal herb, and is derived from the word opificina, later officina, meaning a workshop or pharmacy. The flowers are used to make dandelion wine, the greens are used in salads, the roots have been used to make a coffee substitute (when baked and ground into powder) and the plant was used by Native Americans as a food and medicine.
Dandelions are harvested from the wild or grown on a small scale as a leaf vegetable. The leaves (called dandelion greens) can be eaten cooked or raw in various forms, such as in soup or salad. They are probably closest in character to mustard greens. Usually the young leaves and unopened buds are eaten raw in salads, while older leaves are cooked. Raw leaves have a slightly bitter taste. Dandelion salad is often accompanied with hard boiled eggs. The leaves are high in vitamin A, vitamin C and iron, carrying more iron and calcium than spinach.
Dandelion flowers can be used to make dandelion wine, for which there are many recipes. Most of these are more accurately described as "dandelion-flavored wine," as some other sort of fermented juice or extract serves as the main ingredient. It has also been used in a saison ale called Pissenlit (the French word for dandelion, literally meaning "wet the bed") made by Brasserie Fantôme in Belgium. Dandelion and burdock is a soft drink that has long been popular in the United Kingdom.
Another recipe using the plant is dandelion flower jam. In Silesia and also other parts of Poland and world, dandelion flowers are used to make a honey substitute syrup with added lemon (so-called May-honey). This "honey" is believed to have a medicinal value, in particular against liver problems. Ground roasted dandelion root can be used as a non-caffeinated coffee substitute.
Historically, dandelion was prized for a variety of medicinal properties, and it contains a wide number of pharmacologically active compounds. Dandelion is used as a herbal remedy in Europe, North America and China. "Empiric traditional application in humans of dandelion, in particular to treat digestive disorders, is supported by pharmacological investigations. … Some results, e.g. concerning possible diuretic activity, are even contradictory and require a thorough reinvestigation."
It has been used in herbal medicine to treat infections, bile and liver problems, and as a diuretic. Dandelion root is a registered drug in Canada, sold principally as a diuretic. A hepatoprotective effect in mice of chemicals extracted from dandelion root has been reported. Dandelion is used in herbal medicine as a mild laxative, for increasing appetite, and for improving digestion. The milky latex has been used as a mosquito repellent and as a folk remedy to treat warts.
Yellow or green dye colours can be obtained from the flowers but little colour can be obtained from the roots of the plant.
- 1897 illustration from Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen
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Phenotypic and genotypic variation of this species have been studied in North America (L. M. King 1993; King and B. A. Schaal 1990; J. C. Lyman and N. C. Ellstrand 1998; O. T. Solbrig 1971; R. J. Taylor 1987), but results of those studies did not lead to the recognition of microspecies.
Specimens of Taraxacum officinale with deeply lobed leaves are sometimes difficult to distinguish from those of T. erythrospermum when fruits are missing (see also R. J. Taylor 1987). Usually, however, early leaves of the former are much less deeply lobed than those of the latter, which are more consistently lacerate throughout development, though broadly winged initially. The two taxa are easily distinguished in fruit, the red cypselae of T. erythrospermum standing out from the dull olive ones of T. officinale.
In northeastern North America, Taraxacum officinale and T. lapponicum often are confused, which has led to reports of the common dandelion farther north than I have been able to verify (it has yet to be collected from the Nunavik region of Quebec, for instance). The characters in the key above help separate the two taxa.
The typification by A. J. Richards (1985) would leave the common dandelion of both Europe and North America without a valid name (J. Kirschner and J. Štepánek 1987). For the time being, with the nomenclatural situation still not resolved, I am following traditional usage of the name Taraxacum officinale.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Taraxacum officinale is the generally accepted scientific name for the common dandelion, with variation among taxonomists as to extent of inclusiveness of this species. As treated by Kartesz (1994 checklist and 1999 floristic synthesis), includes both Eurasian plants widely established in North America (ssp. officinale) and native North American plants (ssp. ceratophorum). The native plants included here by Kartesz have been variously considered distinct species by many authors, including Taraxacum integratum, T. lacerum, T. laurentianum, and T. maurolepium. The Eurasian subspecies (ssp. officinale), as treated by Kartesz, includes plants sometimes considered a distinct species, T. palustre, as well as plants sometimes treated as another subspecies, T. officinale ssp. vulgare. LEM 17Jan00. Weber (Taxon 47: 495, 1998) notes that customary usage of the name Taraxacum officinale is for an aggregate of apomicts, with the name Taraxacum campylodes used for the particular segregate apomict which includes the type of T. officinale; nomenclatural formalization of this practice is requested. LEM 3Jun98.
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