Sunday, 21 August 2016

Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion clock, taken with my iPhone

This past week I've spent my evenings putting dandelion clock seeds into beads in order to make my Wishful necklaces. It's very time consuming. I sit there with the telly on, tray of dandelion clocks and beads 'pon my lap, and with a pair of tweezers I pluck a seed from a clock and then add it to a glass bubble, carefully feeding it through the 3mm hole. I keep on doing this until the glass bubble is full of dandelion fluffs.

Dandelion seed, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens
Dandelion seed, or 'fluff' as I like to call it

Blown lampwork glass hollow beads by Laura Sparling
Blown glass beads, wet from their bath

Blown lampwork glass bead and dandelion seed pendants by Laura Sparling
Beads, filled with seeds and made into pendants

Because I handle every dandelion seed separately, I've noticed how much they vary. Not all dandelions are equal. Obviously they are different sizes which means that the seeds from one clock head can be shorter or longer than the seeds from another. The fluffiness of the fluffs is also determined by when the dandelion was picked and how long it has had to dry out. The colour of the seedy bit of the seeds also seems to be affected by this. The older the seed, the darker the seedy bit is.

Dandelion clock seeds, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens

I've become a bit of a dandelion weirdo. I reckon this could be the thing that gives me 'local character' status. I'll be known as 'Dandelion Woman' or 'Her, You Know, Her, Who Picks Dandelions'. I'm constantly scanning grass verges and patches for dandelion clocks. I never leave the house without my dandelion collecting pot and as soon as I see a fluffy lollipop I dash over and pluck it.

Dandelion flower, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens

In my head I have a map of where the big yellow in-bloom dandelions are because I know that in a week or so they will have transformed into clocks and then I can go back to collect them. I don't pick all of them; I always leave a couple there so their seeds can do the nature thing and float away to create new dandelions.

Now, in the style of a Year 7 science project about dandelions, here are some fun dandelion facts for you:

  • The name 'dandelion' comes from the French 'dent di lion' which means 'lion's tooth' and this refers to the jagged leaves of the plant
  • Dandelion seeds can be carried on the wind for as far as five miles
  • In Victorian times, dandelions were grown by rich people and the plants would be eaten in salads and sandwiches
  • Dandelions are rich in calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C
  • The roots of a dandelion can grow up to half a metre long
  • The leaves of the dandelion plant can be used to make purple dye
  • Dandelion tea can be used as a mild laxative but don't be drinking it if you have gallbladder issues as it can also increase the flow of bile
  • Dandelions are food for the caterpillars of several types of butterfly and moth
  • Dandelions open at about five o'clock in the morning and close at about eight o'clock at night, hence the term 'clock'; they were once used as indicators of time

And of course, as with many flowers there are many myths and meanings and old wives' tales surrounding them:

  • When you blow a dandelion clock the number of seeds left represent how many children you will have
  • Another theory states that the number of seeds remaining post-puff indicate how many years you have left to live
  • Dreaming of dandelions represents happy unions
  • Some people think that the dandelion represents celestial bodies; the yellow flower is the sun, the seed head is the moon and the seeds are the stars
  • Dandelions in a wedding bouquet will bring good luck
  • Burying a dandelion in the north-west corner outside your house is said to bring favour and fortune
  • Dandelion root tea can aid psychic abilities and prophetic dreaming
  • In Victorian flower language, dandelions represent faithfulness, happiness and love's oracle
  • You should make a wish before you blow the seeds off a dandelion clock

A lot of those are probably twaddle and I reckon if you bury a dandelion anywhere you'll just end up with lots more dandelions as opposed to favour and fortune. Actually, I am going to do that. Not the burying-it-to-bring-me-favour-and-fortune thing, but in order to intentionally grow dandelions. Most people try and get rid of them but no, I'm going to grow me some so that I can have a good supply for my necklaces. Right now I have enlisted friends and family for dandelion-picking duties and my necklaces contain Hampshire, Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire dandelion seeds.

Blown lampwork glass bead and dandelion seed necklace by Laura Sparling

There you go. More than you ever wanted or needed to know about Taraxacum officinale - the common dandelion. I've come to love these flowers. They're absolutely fascinating and I refuse to call them weeds. Hurrah for the dandelions!

Dandelion clock, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens

Oh, and if you'd like to order you very own Wishful necklace, please head right this way.

4 Comments

Maria said...

How fascinating to learn all about dandelions! You have done a great job in all that information. I really love these little ethereal beads with the seed heads in them, unfortunately I can't get one from you as I live in Australia! Damned quarantine! We have tons of dandelions here, but rules are rules, and alas, I may not purchase one of your hard efforts. Sob....

Laura Sparling said...

Hi Maria

Glad you enjoyed the post. Yeah, they're truly lovely and complex little flowers. And I'm really sorry I can't send you one. As you say, rules are rules. We don't want to be upsetting your country's flora and fauna with a couple of rogue dandelion fluffs!

Laura

Yvette said...

Interesting stuff. I am also a bit of dandelion hunter but fir different reason. My friend and I keep tortoises so we are constantly on the look out for dandies. Not until I started this occupation did I realise how diverse the dandelion species is! Beautiful necklaces by the way.

ros said...

Carissima, che bel post! Mi รจ piaciuta particolarmente il fatto che lo paragonano a dei corpi celesti!
Non vedo l'ora che mi arrivi quelli che ti ho ordinato. Si sa , le poste sono lente. Grazie. Baci. ROS