Dandelions are bursting in cheerful yellow beyond their reputation of being weeds. They are actually fascinating summery plants. They send out fireworks of white seeds. They close at night and open in the warm summer sun.
And they are tough and rugged travelers. The seed is suited for both air and earth journeys. It is light for speeding on air currents, but it also has tiny points to dig into dirt when it lands. Once it grips, it starts growing a sturdy taproot which sprouts nourishing root hairs. Then a fat black stem rises to the surface. Tough leaves spread out in a rosette pattern close to the ground. From there, one plant can send up as many as 20 tall stems.
The most surprising thing I learned is that the velvety and bright yellow part of the dandelion is not one flower, but hundreds. Each yellow frond is not a petal but a fully realized flower that can make seeds. This strategy is called "composite flowers." Other composites include marigolds, goldenrods, and daisies.
The tiny flowers thrive in sun, and on clear days, open and wait for insects for pollination. On cloudy days, these tough flowers have a different tactic. The bud closes up and the flowers can self-pollinate. On a dry windy, day, the bud opens for the last time, the wind casts the seeds to their fate, and the cup holding the seeds turns inside out to shake all the rest loose.
As fall and winter arrive, the flat leaves die off and the plant stays small and low to the ground, ready for snow cover. As winter leaves, it will spring into a new rosette.
With all these unique strategies for survival, dandelions, the lion's teeth in French, are not just fierce from the appearance of jagged leaves. To me, their tenacity is even more courageous.