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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Thursday - January 12, 2012

From: Rama, ON
Region: Canada
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Edible Plants, Medicinal Plants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Negative and positive effects of invasive dandelions from Rama Ontario
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How do Dandelions have a negative impact of being a invasive and a Positive impact of being a invasive species ?

ANSWER:

This is a trick question, right? Since we don't exactly understand the point, we are going to tell you what we know about dandelions especially in the case of invasiveness, and hope we hit the answer you are looking for somewhere in there. Before we go on, we'd like to make note that Taxacum officinale, dandelion is native to Eurasia. It is thought that it was first brought to North America by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower because of its medicinal uses. Officinalis, officinale, officinarum, all adjectives, are the same word with different endings and they all mean used in medicine. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Mr. Smarty Plants encourage the growth, propagation and protection of plants Native to North America so, technically speaking, the dandelion is out of our area of expertise. However, we are always interested in invasive plants, native or not.  

First, we'll give you an online reading assignment, to save us the trouble of repeating things that others have already said, pros and cons. The first article.from the University of California Integrated Pest Management site, Dandelions, is on the cons of dandelions and the elimination thereof. The pros, from the University of Maryland Medical Center, Dandelions,  include the edibility of the plant and the medicinal uses, some of which have been around in various countries for well over a thousand years.

So, now that you have done your homework, here is our take on your question:

Non-beneficial Aspects of Invasive, Non-native Dandelions:

1.  They crowd out desirable plants, particularly in lawns

2.  They have very deep roots; herbicides will likely only damage plants around them.

3.  With deep taproots, they will pull available water out of the soil.

Beneficial Aspects of Invasive, Non-native Dandelions:

1.  They attract pollinators

2.  They are a source of nourishing food, coming up with no human intervention.

3.   With their medicinal qualities, they might one day offer the only cure for some dangerous human disease.

4.  They're cute

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