Dandelion—Taraxacum officinale

A perennial member of the daisy family, dandelions can reduce the aesthetic quality of lawns and turf and can be a weed pest in gardens. Not everyone considers dandelions a weed, however—they can be considered attractive, they are edible to humans in a variety of ways, are high in nutritional value for humans and animals, and are important for insects, including bees and butterflies.

dandelion seedlings
Leaves are deeply serrated and grow from the base of the plant atop a strong taproot which grows 6 to 18 inches long. The name dandelion comes from the shape of the leaves: den-delion=tooth of the lion.

dandelion flowers
Bright yellow flower heads, 1 to 2 inches across, consist of 100 to 300 ray flowers, and sit atop stalks 6 to 24 inches tall. Stalks and roots exude a milky substance when cut.

dandelion seed heads
Seeds form in a parachute–like structure called a pappus. Seeds can be transported many miles by the wind.

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[Photos, left to right: Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California - Davis, Bugwood.org; Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org; Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California - Davis, Bugwood.org]