By Camille Aubin
[email protected] 

The dandelion is at the top of the list of the most hated plants in Canada and the United States. One of the reasons for its bad reputation is supposedly related to its yellow color. But its colour is just that: a colour. Dandelions do not adversely impact the environment. And yet they are famous unpopular plants and a prime target for herbicide companies.

Roots from dandelions are notoriously hard to dig out and the plants can propagate themselves incredibly well. Remember seeing a dandelion breaking through a tiny crack in pavement where nothing else lives? Annoying to some, delightful to others, but either way, there’s no denying it is impressive.

Many people pull it out of their lawns or spray it when they spot it creeping alongside their perfectly manicured grass. However, not that long ago, this wasn’t considered a big deal. Instead, it was part of a healthy lawn.

Historically, humans have eaten dandelions and used them as medicine. They have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than a thousand years and have been mentioned in ancient writings by the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. So, what made dandelions go from medicinal food to an unacceptable weed?

Following the Second World War, with the development of suburbia, lawns became a status symbol for the average American, and Canadian. This rapidly became an excellent opportunity for herbicide manufacturers. A new lawn industry was formed as lawn culture flourished, including residential landscaping, lawnmowers, weed wackers, leaf blowers, feed for lawns, weed killer, and more.

Often, dandelions’ yellow heads are among the first plants to blossom in spring and the last still left in autumn. Pollinators love them. Every year, we destroy a vast habitat of wildflowers under the blades of our lawnmowers in an effort to get rid of those rapidly proliferating, omnipresent ‘nuisance’ dandelions.

The result of all this is that during the first part of spring, butterflies, honeybees, pollen beetles, and moths are in distress because we’ve killed off one of their most critical food sources at a key time.

By leaving the dandelion to grow longer for the bees, we transform our backyard into an invaluable source of nectar and pollen over a period of time (beginning of spring) where there is not much else for them to find apart from a tiny handful of other early-blooming flowers and trees. That’s right, that those little spots of sunshine on your lawn (the dandelions) arrive at just the time that bees must form the hives in order to create the honey.

So no need to feel guilty because you haven’t started your spring yard clean-up yet; you are in fact making life much better for bees, and for your backyard ecosystem.