Late in the spring, my son and I were walking home from preschool. I’m lucky, that way – my schedule is odd and early enough that I get to go pick him up, and we live close enough to his preschool that I can easily walk to get him after I get home. The weather was nice on the day in question, and like all usual he’s asking me questions left and right. Then he hits me with a stumper.
“Do yellow flowers turn into white flowers?”
I’ll be honest, here. I wasn’t certain what he was talking about. So, my response was a generic (and confused) “I… guess they can.”
“I don’t know,” I confessed. “What flower are you talking about?”
That’s when he grabs a dandelion, and blows it. Cottony seeds fly everywhere, and he laughs and chases them for a moment. Which is when it dawned on me what he meant. Specifically, he meant this:
Dandelions, scientifically, are Taraxacum officinale, a name that is thought to have come from tarashaquq (which was the Persian name for the plant) and the Latin officina (meaning an office, store-room, or pharmacy). The name comes from the fact that it was used as a diuretic and a mild laxative, as well as a mosquito repellent. The English name comes from the French dent de lion (meaning ‘lion’s tooth’). They are perrenial plants, growing from a thick tap root, and they have a bright yellow flower that looks a bit like a shaggy head of hair. Seriously, if you’ve seen grass in your life you’ve probably seen a dandelion.
Why am I so confident about this? Because, although the plant is native to the Eurasian landmass, it grows everywhere. North and South America, India, Australia, and New Zealand at least.
So what’s up with those seeds?
You have, I’m sure, seen a dandelion that’s gone to seed.
Dandelions are apomictic, capable of producing anywhere from 54 to 172 seeds per head without fertilization. The seeds are generated twice a year, once in early sumer and once in early fall. Because of this, a single dandelion plant can produce more than 2,000 seeds per year. The seeds are designed to be spread by the wind (or by small, excited children) with the cottony fluff at the end of the seed functioning in a manner similar to a kite or parachute – any wind over about 4 mph will make them fly.
So, yes. Yellow flowers turn into white flowers. And once they do, you will never get rid of them.