Where else can a hungry honey bee find a meal early in the spring when nothing else is blooming? This little cluster of dandelions is a lifesaver for a bee with spring coming so late and many plants blooming even later, or not at all after a series of freezes. This is another in my series of “Save Our Native Bees” images. Please download and share!
Dandelions are native to all temperate areas of the planet and in that way are familiar to bees all over the planet, providing nectar and pollen as early as warmer temperatures awaken bees. Many other pollinating insects rely on them for a meal as well, such as butterflies, and despised as they are they are important for attracting pollinators to gardens everywhere.
I just don’t understand the hatred of a pretty little yellow flower. I’m so glad to see them in the spring—sometimes they’ll actually bloom during the spring thaw, between the snows, and they’re good to eat too. Their long tap roots break up hard soil and bring minerals up to the surface where plants with shorter roots can access them and they help fix nitrogen in the soil. All those minerals and the vitamins that are locked into the leaves of any verdant plant, as nutritious as any cultivated cooking green we might grow like spinach, chard or mustard greens, are in those pointy leaves for us to consume, and from root to flower dandelions have been a staple in the human diet and healing pharmacy for as long as humans have been foraging. The yellow flowers have been used to make a famous dandelion wine, and also a pale buttery yellow dye. I find them pretty inspiring for artwork as well.
And if you want to have fruits in your orchards and vegetables in your garden, nothing welcomes pollinators like a bright yellow dandelion.
So many chemicals are used to kill dandelions on lawns every year and this chemical use contributes to nonpoint source pollution of our waterways, the largest category of pollutants in the nation. Maintaining your lawn as a habitat and cutting your grass as tall as possible generally keeps them under control—I’ve never gone after the ones in my yard, never use any chemicals at all, and this spring I have about six dandelions. A friend with a new home and an undeveloped lawn was angry about the dandelions that sprung up opportunistically before the grass was even planted. She hated having a front yard full of dandelions. I asked her, after she sprayed them, what did she have left? Dirt. How attractive was that? At least she’d had something blooming before she killed them.
So honor this beautiful and willing flower that has added so much to our health and the beauty of our human lives on this earth, and had not been at all humbled by our attempts to ungratefully kill it off once we decided it no longer fit our ideal of beauty and usefulness. And most importantly, let if feed our endangered bees.
Wikipedia: Basic Information
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association: Ten Things You Might Not Know About Dandelions
Mother Nature Network: Save the Dandelions. Save the Bees.
Off the Grid News: 8 Uses for Dandelions
I love to see these pollinators out in force, here visiting both bugle weed and forget-me-nots.