1 DANDELION Taraxacum officinale
A familiar sight in gardens, parks and on roadside verges. Flowers peak from March to May but can be seen throughout the year.
Do you want to do your bit to help reverse the decline in pollinators, such as bees? Then be less hasty with your lawnmower in the spring. Abstaining with the blades allows a bounty of blooms for early-season pollinators.
The common dandelion has been sitting there all winter. A thick taproot, acting like a battery pack, enables this plant to shoot its flowers up and out of the central rosette of leaves, beating many other flowers to the pollen and nectar market. As a weed, they are effective – able to colonise any open ground quickly and regenerate from even a tiny piece of taproot.
It is this omnipresence that makes them such a reliable source of nectar and pollen. The main flush is in early spring, when they turn the verges into strips of golden sunshine, but not a month exists when there won’t be some dandelion flowers in bloom somewhere.
While the pollen is often cited as being lower in proteins than is useful to bees, this is referring to our domestic honeybees. It is, however, one of the top-rated nectar producers of any wildflower, and many of our early-season bees – solitary mining and mason bees, for example – thrive on the stuff. Just spend a bit of time peering into each flowerhead and you’ll see hundreds of tiny beetles and flies as well.
The plant’s effectiveness as a ‘weed’ is also down to its ability to produce many far-travelling seeds. The seed head, that familiar ‘clock’, is lifted still higher after flowering by a quickly growing stem, ensuring that the 135–300 seeds will be sure to catch the breeze.