Or, to employ a fancy word that I refrained from using back in my laborer days lest I be accused of showing off, they’re ubiquitous!
And though they’ve been around a lot longer than me or anyone I’ve known in my life, (one source http://www.naturenorth.com/summer/dandelion/Dandelion2.html says dandelions were used by Persian pharmacists for medicinal treatments about 900 A.D.) their reach in southcentral Alaska has expanded dramatically during my lifetime. Parts of Chugach State Park’s backcountry, such as the Crow Pass Trail, have been invaded by these tenacious, prodigious, invasive weeds.
“Dandelion” is an English corruption of the French name for this plant: “dent de lion” meaning “lion’s tooth”, a reference to the tooth-like serrations on the plant’s leaves.
Pesky as these invaders are, they have their DDs, for Dandelion Defenders.
DDs posit that being the first to flower in summer, they are food for bees and other insects. They believe they’re “pretty.” Dandelions can be used to make wine. Young leaves can be made into salads. It’s even said that once the dandelions’ roots are baked and ground, they can made into a form of coffee. No thanks.
And there are documented medicinal uses, such as a diuretic and laxative. The milky substance of dandelions has been used as a mosquito repellent, but I’d advise checking with a physician or a qualified expert before trying dandelions for home remedies.
Controlling dandelions: Telephone a horticulturalist and ask about how to mitigate your dandelion problem, and you might hear convulsive laughter on the other end. The truth is, you can’t. Here’s what you’re dealing with: A dandelion plant lives about 5-10 years. An average of 15,000 seeds is produced per dandelion plant. There are usually 150-200 seeds per flower and up to 10 flowers per plant. They have a single tap root and I’ve seen them six inches long! And the primary propagating agent? Of course, the wind. But I think people are also tracking the seeds into the wilds on their boots.
You can slow them down and even fool yourself into believing you have thwarted their assault, but as actor Arnold Schwarzenegger warned, they “will be back.”
I have combatted their advance in both my front and back yards by systematically pulling them up by their roots, year after year.
A screwdriver or weed puller come in handy. Weed and Feed fertilizer seems to thin out the dandelions, but it makes grass grow insanely fast—I have to mow it about every four days. Finally, when my neighbors aren’t looking, I surreptitiously (another fancy word) remove dandelions from their yards to prevent them from colonizing mine. Another recommendation is to not cut the lawn too short.
If you want to get aggressive and environmentally medieval, there are powerful chemicals, some cited in the website above, that will murder dandelions at the risk of collateral damage on other yard plants.
I’m an avid hiker, and I’m seeing dandelions where I’ve never seen them before, such as on the Eklutna East Fork Trail which begins at Mile 10 on the Eklutna Lakeside Trail. They’ve advanced up the Lost Lake Trail on the Kenai Peninsula and surmounted the divide. They are at the top of Hatcher Pass.
I’m not a big fan, but through a reluctant form of coexistence, have adopted a friendly name for them: “dandies.”
I admire living things that are tough, and nature doesn’t make them any tougher.
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River with his wife Rebekah, a retired school teacher.