PHYLLIS ODESSEY

teeth of the lion

Dandelion stamp from Iceland

The largest and most robust dandelions I have seen were in Iceland.  In a country where there is little flora, the common dandelion is everywhere.  The front yard, gardens, public spaces, driveways, Taraxacum officinale are prized for their color and form in an otherwise stark landscape.  Members of the Asteraceae family, this troublesome weed was the subject of Dr. Lena Struwe’s talk at NYBG:  The Love and Hate of Dandelions and Their Symbolism in Today’s Society . Although not particularly botanical, Struwe’s talk focused on contradictory forces that have shaped our perception of the dandelion.  In large part, the agricultural and horticultural industry convinced Americans that this plant was more than just troublesome; it was the object of ruination for all who desire a pristine lawn.

Dandelions grow from seed. They reproduce asexually. Capable of producing seed without the need for cross-fertilization, the resulting “progeny” are clones of the parent plant.

Struwe concentrated on the image of the dandelion on objects from cell phone covers to lamps to glassware.  In fact there are 128,639 listing for objects connected to the dandelion on ebay.

So how does a plant that commercial horticultural has taught has to get rid of become so ubiquitous? It is the fruiting head that inspires.From something as strange as dandelion being used in the logo for military brats, which if you think about it makes sense, “my home is nowhere, my friends are everywhere.”

symbol of green party in Sweden

In another way, the dispersal of the dandelion seed becomes a symbol of keeping those we have lost in our hearts.
Struwe considers the negative perception of the dandelion as a  kind of plant blindness. Although this plant has evolved over 30 million years, leaves, root and flower are edible, and in used as a medicinal plant since Roman times, the dandelion is still despised.  This talk was a chance to think differently!

Dandelion comic

Botantical Accuracy is Lena Struwe’s blog and its a lot of fun to read.
“Welcome to the “Better Botanical Business Bureau”, where botanical mistakes in commercial and public venues and products are showcased and corrected”.

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