Did you know that a dandelion flower is many flowers that make up a single head? Getting curious and paying attention to flowers that pop up during the spring and summer can help us become more mindful of the seasons, weather conditions, and plant species. Our front lawns, local meadows, and even cracks in the sidewalks can be a great place to start simple lessons in botany!
The seed head of the common dandelion is anything but common. Within the shape and patterns of its seeds are lessons in geometry and physics. Close observations will reveal geometric patterns that can lead a curious mind to identify spiraling patterns known as the Fibonacci sequence. Looking closely and learning how the Fibonacci sequence and Golden Ratio are closely tied can spotlight a mathematical foundation found throughout nature. Learn the sequence and see where you can find it in other places, including pinecones, the shell of a snail, sunflowers, and of course, dandelion flowers and seed heads.
For as long as human history has been recorded, the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) has been used as food and medicine across the globe. While not native to this continent, this nutritious golden flowering plant arrived with the European colonization of the 1600’s and is now commonplace in lawns and meadows across North America. In the spring, the dandelion is one of several common wild edibles foragers look for to supplement their dinner plates. Here’s a helpful list, which includes, of course, DANDELIONS!
Looking through the lens of dandelions, interests in culinary arts, pastry arts, baking, and even home brewing can be supported. Within these interests, lessons in chemistry and math are implicit, while the art of taste and texture is an explicit driving force…
World History and the Dandelion
Once respected around the world for its nutritional value and medicinal properties, today, the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is seen by many as a noxious weed. Why? We have the rise of “lawn culture” to thank whose origin stems back to 17th century England where lawns were a status of wealth. Before this landscaping trend took root in the U.S., we might have seen dandelion varieties in seed catalogs and homegrown samples entered in the county fair during the 1800s. But here we are 200 years later, and this delightful and tenacious little flower has been hexed by many as undesirable. And to add insult to injury, the cost of herbicides spent each year to kill this gift from nature is in the millions, impacting far more than just the dandelion. Learning about history through the lens of the common dandelion can help us understand how our culture has gone from loving to hating (and hopefully back to loving) this flowering herbaceous perennial plant. This approach to history might tap into your interests in nutrition, medicine, culinary arts, agriculture, social studies, ecology, and even mythology. Start your history lesson with this short video “Dandelions and Civilization: A Forgotten History” by The History Guy: History Deserves to Be Remembered.