Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Weedy Wednesday: Is That A Real Dandelion?

Welcome to another Weedy Wednesday post. Today I thought I would focus on how to properly identify two very similar weeds, Dandelion and Cat's Ears or False Dandelion.  We all know the Dandelion but I'm guessing that some of you may be unfamiliar with the fact that there is an imposter afoot...the False Dandelion.  It came by that name for good reason as it is very often improperly identified as Dandelion.  I would put together a little quiz with eight images to help you see how much you really do know about how to tell these two plants apart.  Keep track of your answers and when you get to the bottom you can see how well you did.

Is this Dandelion with the nearly smooth stem...
or is it this one with clearly ridged stem?

These smooth serrated leaves...
or these hairy lobed leaves?

This common weed is actually one of the most beneficial plants in our garden when we take a closer look.  That long taproot we find impossible to dig out with one try is able to bring up nutrients for plants with shallower root systems and adds minerals and nitrogen to the soil too. It is one of the earliest flowers to bloom, attracting beneficial insects to the garden.  It is also a food source for some moths and butterflies.

Not only is Dandelion good for the garden but it is also to us for food and medicine as well and it's not just one part of the plant but the entire thing that is edible. It's flowers are turned into wine, leaves become a salad and the root become a coffee substitute.  I am guessing that may be the reason it is now found on every continent on the planet.  If you keep track of which image you think is what it will teach you more than if you don't and get some won't know what you didn't see that you may need to if you want to gather flowers for wine or leaves for a salad.

Whose petals appear to some to more of a point?
Who has these squared off petals?

My parents did not have the affinity for Dandelion that I do.  Their only interest was in how to be rid of them in the lawn.  I remember my brother and I being sent out to dig Dandelions out of lawn using a Dandelion fork and a big screwdriver.  I never liked doing it as I much preferred being able to gather up the pretty yellow flowers for bouquets and watching bees gather nectar and pollen from the blooms.  And who doesn't like to blow on the puffballs and make a wish?  The Germans call these puffballs "Pusteblume" which means "blowing flower".  Personally I like calling the parachute filled puffballs "Wish Flowers" and by the looks of our yard this year we must have made a lot of wishes last year because the Dandelions are everywhere!

I just picked these flowers.  Can you tell which is the Dandelion and which is Cat's Ear?
Which plant has a clean white seed head and which has this dirty white seed head?

Okay, are you ready?  Lets see how well you did...
In all the photographs the top image was of the Dandelion and the bottom was the Cat's ear, including the one photo showing the freshly picked stems.  So how did you do?

By the way, there is a clue in our English name "Dandelion" that will always help you identify this plant and it comes from the French who, thinking the sharply serrated leaves looked like the teeth of a lion, called it dent-de-lion. So I hope you enjoyed the little tutorial quiz today.  It was a lot of fun putting it together and if you ever forget, you know where to come look for the answer.

If you have weeds that you are having trouble not confusing with other weeds let me know and I'll see if I can put together a quiz like the one I did here and we'll see how everyone fairs trying to tell your weeds apart.

Copyright © 2011 by Patty Hicks
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  1. Great post Patty, how helpful this will be for all your readers! I'm so glad to have found a kindred dandelion lover :-) We grow a lot for their roots and roast them for teas. I still think that our pasture is at it's prettiest when the dandelions are all blooming in the Springtime.

  2. Thank you for this. I loved it. I was tending my mother's beautiful garden in the mountains of Northern AZ and admired the many dandelions in the lawn. It was my job to "weed," so I had to dig them up and toss them into the heap. The whole time I was thinking, " I love the flowers." or "My chickens back home would eat these." Next time, I'm going to collect them and take them home! ;)

  3. Hi Rhonda...thanks for the comment...and I am thankful I am not alone! ;-)

  4. A Daughter...I can so relate! I've done similar things myself and though others look at me like I'm weird I just shrug it off and laugh a bit. If they only knew what we know. ;-)