Dandelion- Taraxacum "officinale"

Main features

  • Grows in rosettes in grassland, disturbed earth, pastures, garden borders, roadsides and waste ground

  • Leaves are deeply lobed, with an appearance of sharp teeth

  • Flower stalks are clean with one terminal flower head

  • Flowers have multiple yellow petals

  • The flowers are followed by "clock" of seeds 

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Dandelion - Taraxacum officinale

Edible plant - novice when in flower, intermediate when in seed or not in flower

Other common names: Wee-the-Bed, Wet-the-Bed, Bitterwort, Clockflower, Blowflower, Blowball, Irish Daisy, Lion's Tooth, Yellow Gowan, Puffball, Swine's Snout, Piss-the-Bed, Priest' Crown, Common Danedelion, Cankerwort, Telltime

Scientific name meaning: Taraxacum has been derived from the Greek "Taraxis" meaning disorder, together with "Akos" refering to a remedy. Officinale is Latin, and means "an office, monastery or pharmacy". This is actual in reference to the type of place where medicines would have been kept. This is due to the plant's medicinal uses.

The species names is an aggregate name covering over 200 species of Dandelion known to grow in the UK

Season All year

Habitat - where will I find it? Found in grassland, pasture, garden borders, roadsides and waste ground.

It is a native to Europe and parts of Asia, and has been introduced to Australasia, the Americas, and other parts of Asia

Description - what does it look like? The leaves are dark green and deeply lobed. They have the appearance of pointy green teeth. 

The leaves form a basal rosette from which emerges clean flower stalks with a single yellow many-petalled flower. The flower stalk has no leaves or other flowers branching off. One stalk, one flower.

The flower eventual turns into a seed "clock"

Possible lookalikes Despite being such a common plant, for the novice, a Dandelion that is in seed or is not in flower may be difficult to distinguish from lots of other species. Harvesting at this stage is therefore best left to the experienced forager. Dandelion is a member of the aster family, which contains many species with similar flowers. These include Hawkweeds, Hawk's Beards, Sow Thistles, and Goat's Beard, among others. However, all of these have either leaves or flowers branching off along their flower stalk, which Dandelion does not

Use as a food The young leaves of Dandelion can be eaten raw or cooked, but these get bitter with age. 

The unopened flower buds can be used to make capers. Once open, the young petals, with all green parts removed, can be used to make jams, jellies, marmalade, cordial, syrup and wine.

The root can be roasted and ground to produce a coffee replacement, from which a syrup that can be used as a cordial is also made. This syrup can be used to produce Dandelion and Burdock cordial

Use in herbal medicine As its scientific name suggests, Dandelion has had many uses as a herbal medicine including as a diuretic, antibiotic, laxative, tonic, and appetite stimulant. It has been used to treat liver disorders, urinary disorders, heart problems, oedema, gout, eczema, acne, and indigestion.

The sap has been used to treat warts, verrucas and corns

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Other uses Given that it is considered a weed, Dandelion has good uses for the gardener. A plant feed can be made from its leaves and roots, and it can be used to speed up the ripening of fruits. The roots can also be used to make a red-brown dye

Hazards There are some reports that Dandelion may be mildly toxic. However, if this is the case any toxins would be in extremely low amounts and excessive consumption required in order cause issues. there is circumstantial evidence that some people may have a contact allergy to Dandelion.

Dandelion has diuretic qualities, so be aware of this if consuming in large amounts

Importance to other species Dandelion is exceptionally important as a food source for pollinators. It also provides food for grazing mammals

Things to note If harvesting Dandelion root, you need to ask permission of the landowner to comply with the Theft Act

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!