Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a deep rooted, hardy perennial flowering herb. It
has a basal rosette of toothed or large deeply pinnately divided leaves. In spring the plant produces hollow tubular stems that are terminated by large yellow florets. These later give way to a seed head consisting of a ball of long, ribbed parachute like seeds. Dandelion is a native of Europe, and commonly found growing wild on grasslands, gardens, wasteland and nitrogen rich soils. Often dandelion is considered as a 'weed', especially when found growing in the lawn or vegetable bed. Indeed, the dandelion, like the nettle, absorbs about three times the amount of iron (Fe) taken up by any other plant. It will also use it's deep roots to take up copper (Cu) and many other soil nutrients, making them unavailable for cultivated crops. The dandelion also exudes ethylene gas, which inhibits the growth of nearby plants, causing them to become stunted. It can also be a difficult plant to erradicate; it seeds itself freely, and in addition it's fleshy tap root stores enough energy to regrow vigorously if not thoroughly removed from the soil. In fact I have heard of a gardener who dug out a large dandelion root from his soil and nailed it to his shed door. After two years exposure to wind, sun and frosts, he replanted it, and it regrew as strongly as ever! However, the dandelion can also be a very useful plant, especially if tolerated in those parts of the garden where it will not compete with other crops. In fact in France the dandelion is still cultivated commercially. All parts of the plant are edible- the bitter leaves are used in salads, the roots can be roasted as a coffee substitute whilst the flowers are a useful ingredient for spring wine making, traditionally being gathered for this purpose on a Good Friday. Dandelion also has medicinal uses; it's leaves are a diuretic (a traditional name is 'piss the bed') that can be used safely whenever such an action is needed, including in cases of water retention due to heart problems, without the loss of potassium that can be associated with kidney stimulating medications. Roots are a liver tonic, promote bile flow, as well as having diuretic, laxative and anti-rheumatic properties. Dandelion also has usein the garden as an ingredient for liquid fertiliser; rotted down in rainwater, the leaves and roots yield the minerals sodium (Na), silicon (Si),manganese (Mn), calcium (Ca), Potassium (K), phosphorous (P), Iron (Fe) and copper (Cu).