Manitoba

9 facts you may not have known about dandelions

Dandelions are sprouting up all around Manitoba while city officials and homeowners try to find ways to deal with the yellow blooms. Dorothy Dobbie, publisher of Manitoba Gardener Magazine, offers ideas for how to get rid of the weed, plus some interesting facts.

French word for dandelion means 'pee the bed,' they're full of vitamins and you might be eating them

Dandelions are hard to get rid of because they're very good at seeding, says Dorothy Dobbie, publisher of Manitoba Gardener Magazine. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Dandelions are sprouting up all around Manitoba while city officials and homeowners try to find ways to deal with the yellow blooms.

Dorothy Dobbie, publisher of Manitoba Gardener Magazine, offers some ideas for getting rid of the weed, plus some interesting facts. 

1. Dandelions are not indigenous to North America

Dobbie: Europeans brought them to North America because they're chock full of so many good things. 

2. The French have another name for them — "pee the bed"

The French word [for dandelion] is pissenlit, which translates to "pee the bed." Dandelions are a diuretic and in fact they are as strong as some of the commercial products. 

3. Dandelions are full of vitamins

The leaves, the flowers and the roots are edible. A cup of dandelion greens would give you about 112 per cent of your recommended daily amount of vitamin A and 535 per cent of your recommended daily amount of vitamin K, and other things like calcium, iron and magnesium.

4. You might already be eating dandelions 

You actually are eating dandelion leaves in your mesclun salads. They're commercialized now. People raise them and harvest them.

5. The English name "dandelion" comes from "tooth of the lion" in French 

"Dent de lion" in French translates to "tooth of the lion" in English. The weed was given its name because of the way the leaves are etched — some people thought the leaves looked like a lion's mouth. 

6. Dandelions became unpopular because they're so successful

Dandelions are a perennial and that means they come back year after year if you don't do something to make that impossible, and they're very successful seeders. Their seeds are on little parachutes that go flying wherever there's a breeze, landing in all kinds of interesting places. They're very good at putting down the little fork bottoms of their seeds and embedding themselves in the earth and springing up again.

7. Dandelions are very good at adapting

You can mow those dandelions all you like. Yes, it will take off the worst of those flowers, but they will come back. It won't get rid of them. What happens is that the dandelions spread their leaves out and nothing can grow underneath it. After a little while it kills your grass. After you mow them, they will still send out seeds, because they want to make seeds and survive. Maybe five years down the road instead of grass, we'll have dandelions. 

8. You can kill dandelions yourself

There are little things individuals can do. You can kill dandelions with hot water — just pour boiling water on them. You can pour extra strength vinegar that you can buy at a garden centre, not the stuff from your cupboard, over them. You could take one of those weed torches and just touch the leaves with it, and that should kill them.

A long-term strategy is to get corn gluten meal. It doesn't kill the dandelion, but it does reduce the ability of the dandelion to grow, because it's a deterrent for seed development. It may take several years, though, and you have to go after the base root, because they are perennials.  

9. There are several superstitions involving dandelions, including making a wish and blowing off all the dandelion seeds to make a wish come true

When I was a kid, you'd hold a dandelion under your chin, and if it showed yellow under your chin, that meant you like butter. It goes to show that dandelions have been part of our daily life for a long time. They become part of the myths and the magic of who we are.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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