A dandelion doesn’t care if humans think of it as a weed. Courtesy photo

During a recent visit to Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco to admire the daffodils, I noticed dandelions dotting the grass across and between many of the grave sites.

Many people consider the dandelion a weed. I mean, who wants to invest time, money, and effort into a nice rolling green lawn only to find dandelions growing there, too? Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder at how hard those dandelions were working to make themselves noticed, as much so as the daffodils and jonquils that blanketed the cemetery’s riverside slope.

But in fact, a weed is a “weed” only to humans. In the flower world, be they dandelions, daffodils, buttercups, or bright yellow tulips, they all hold their heads up high to add color to our world. Flowers don’t speak, or at least not in any language we know. But whatever that language is, I am certain that the word “weed” is not in their vocabulary.

As opposed to maintaining an expensive and time-consuming expanse of green grass, which I must admit can be beautiful, I’ve always opted for the messier and more eclectic approach of welcoming all plants and flowers, both wild and cultivated, into my gardens and my living space. I find that they all have something to offer. And while the dandelion may not be as attractive to some as the daffodil, I consider its own uniqueness … the clusters of thin yellow petals that emerge from a central receptacle … and the fact that each one of those petals is a single seed that will eventually turn to white silk and fly away on the wind.

Like all else in nature, each type of flower behaves according to its built-in programming. The information they use to do this is contained in a plant’s DNA. And unless something has happened to alter that basic blueprint, the dandelion will grow up to be a dandelion, the tulip a tulip, and so forth. And I don’t think that they know, or care, that they’re all very different. So who am to pass judgment on what I consider, or don’t consider, a flower that deserves to be admired?

The dandelion was brought here by European settlers who valued it for its nutritional and health-giving properties. Unbeknownst to many, the dandelion (Taraxacum) is a member of the Asteraceae plant family that also produces asters, sunflowers, chrysanthemums, and chamomile, to name but a few of its dozens of cousins. Nature has designed the dandelion to grow quickly and naturalize readily for that reason: the plant is good for us. All parts of it, from its roots to its yellow petals, are safe to eat. And in the spring, before the plants blossom, the greens themselves are enjoyed by many people, to the point where I see a cultivated version in some supermarket produce bins.

So there you have it. It might not be a pretty thing by some standards, but a dandelion doesn’t know or care that people aren’t flocking in the spring to see it growing on a slope in a cemetery or across a rolling meadow. It will continue to do what nature programmed it to do: make millions and millions more of itself.

After all, how diminished would our lives be if we weren’t able, on a childish whim, to pick up a spent dandelion head and blow all those gossamer seeds into the wind!

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