Holy Everything: Bees need dandelions, and maybe you do, too
Dandelions, those early-to-bloom lawn sunshines, play a crucial role in the health of bees and butterfly larvae in April and May. For this reason, Post-Bulletin writer John Molseed recently advised in his Greenspace column to let them grow for the first part of the season rather than immediately mowing them down.
“The flowers are an important food source for pollinators — especially bees,” he noted. Dandelions provide both pollen and nectar.
By late May, more flowering plants are available as food sources for bees and other insects, so dandelions become less important for their diet.
In pondering what our own approach might be to the dandelions beginning to appear in our yard this year, Justin and I have been doing a bit of research on Taraxacum officinale (dandelion’s taxonomical name). The word dandelion comes from the French version “dent de lion” which means Lion’s tooth and refers to the toothed appeared of a plant’s leaves.
Dent de lions evolved about 30 million years ago and have likely been an important source of food and medicine for people since the beginning of humanity. Evidence of their early existence has been are found in many parts of the world. Their seeds were likely brought to the United States by dandelion-loving European colonists (perhaps even on the Mayflower).
Dandelions weren’t always considered an obnoxious, defiant weed that required copious amounts of pesticides to eradicate. Instead, there were times in history when people actually dug up grass in order to make more space for dandelions. Really! They were that highly prized!
So what changed? Our approach to dandelions evolved as our tastes for a more manicured and uniform lawn developed. These days as much as $15 billion per year is spent in the United States on pesticides and fertilizers, amounting to nearly a billion pounds of chemicals. For many of us, we’re a far cry from the days of boiling dandelions to make healing tinctures and eating their potassium-rich greens in salads.
In an effort to support the bees, Justin and I are planning to welcome the Irish daisy (another name for dandelion) for the next month or so. After that we’ll likely dig them up by their profoundly deep taproots and mow them down for the rest of the season. But for at least the next several weeks, we’ll let them grow and observe what happens. I wonder if you might join us? Maybe even in a small patch of your yard? If you do, I encourage you to nurture the metaphorical dandelions that might be growing in your own heart, too.
Are there parts of you that you cut down the moment they appear because you fear what others will think? Do you try to blend in and be relentlessly uniform in the way you live your life as to not disturb your neighbors, co-workers and family members? Have you ever sprayed toxic words of judgment on yourself in the hopes of quieting down your deep desires and dreams?
What if you gave the truest parts of yourself a couple weeks to bloom? It’s possible that within those parts of you is good food and medicine needed by the rest of the world!
Bees need dandelions. The world needs you! The real you. Lay off the spray for a few weeks. Let’s see what grows.