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.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Weeds -

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.

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