Tuesday, 25 April 2023 14:12

Dandelion

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Dandelion

Robert DeStefano

Robert DeStefano has published a collection of poetry entitled, Ledges, Lichens, Lilacs, and More, available on Amazon. He is a master botanist and most of his poems deal with nature.

Taraxacum Officinale

the lion’s tooth

I

have blown your pappi away

those delicate fluffy white parachutes

carry precious cargo

a

seed

wind gusts make you fly

day and night

where

will you alight

where

will you germinate

your long tapering

root

mines the soil

brings

precious minerals

to the surface

most nutritious of all the

vegetables

most hated of the weeds

most misunderstood wildflower

most abused

and rarely used

lowly showy

dandelion.

Who has not blown a dandelion away? I sometimes wonder what the probability of certain events occurring might be. Also, how some seemingly inconsequential events can change everything. For example, I stopped by my future wife’s home on the day I was finally discharged from the army in December 1971. I had taken a train from Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn and finally got off the 7 Line train at 69th Street in Woodside, NY. She lived half a block from that station, which was on my walk home. We had been friends, but did not date before I was drafted into the military. I knew she was in contact with many people, and I thought if I stopped by, she would “spread the news” that I was home. Would we be married today if I had never stopped there that day? One day after a 5-mile hike in basic training, we were given time to rest before going back to the barracks. I sat down in a grassy area with my back against a tree. I noticed several dandelions, one of which had the white seed-bearing parachutes (pappi) ready to take flight. I broke off the stem of the former flower and began to blow the parachutes away. The wind then carried them farther and farther away, and eventually, some landed. I began to wonder if I had changed everything as a result of my action. I altered where those seeds would have landed, and who knows the consequences of that?

The dandelion is despised by those who want a perfect lawn. They pick them, spray them, poison them, but the dandelion seems to always win. This “weed” has found ingenious ways to cope with humans. Dandelions growing on lawns that are repeatedly mowed have evolved to grow lower to the ground to avoid the lawnmower blades. Once established, these dandelions employ a reproductive method known as apomixis. They can reproduce seeds without having fertilization occur. These seeds then can quickly colonize an area, producing a superclone of individuals, each with the trait to thwart human interference. Not bad for the lowly dandelion.

Some humans have realized that the dandelion is the most nutritious of all vegetables since its long root, which makes it so difficult to pull out of a lawn, can mine the soil for minerals. Minerals left over by the decomposition of leaves and animals on the surface work their way down into the soil when it rains. Dandelions bring these minerals back by incorporating them into their leaves. When these leaves die, their decomposition restores the minerals to the surface. Put a few dandelion leaves into your next salad; you might begin to love rather than hate the dandelion.     *

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