It was a year or two ago I reported on dandelions. At that time, I acknowledged most folks hated them. But we were told we should love them. People were being shamed because they pulled up the yellow-flowered weeds. Dandelions were promoted as being one of the first blooming things hereabouts and the pollinators needed them. “Spare the dandelions!” was the cry. But wonder of wonders, the tide on dandelions has now turned and, ho boy, is it ever sour.

Truth is I never did like them, and I am beyond happy to report to you it is more than okay to hate them again. We now hear we should be ripping them up willy nilly out of our lawns and vegetable gardens too. Turns out, we’ve discovered dandelions are not natives. The once-holy weed has turned out to be an invasive exotic. Horrors. Of course, we always knew they were not natives. But it turns out I’m not the only one who has noticed dandelions are not exactly magnets for bees and other pollinators. That fact is the second part of why horticulturalists have put the kibosh on dandelions now.

Long and fibrous, dandelion roots are notoriously difficult to pull. Photo by Lynette Walther.

There are plenty of pollinating plants that populate my garden and lawn early on. And, to be honest, I’ve never really seen bees prefer the dandelions to my cultured or other wild flowering plants.

“Dandelions (Taxacum officinale) are native to Eurasia, and it is generally believed they were first brought to North America on the Mayflower for its medicinal uses. In Europe, China, India and Russia they were used to treat a plethora of skin, infection, liver and digestive problems,” according to one online source. Of course, there are those early greens the plants provide, not to mention the possibility of dandelion wine. Though I’ve yet to encounter anyone who brewed that libation or has ever sampled any.

As I previously reported, dandelions can be considered a food source, providing minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium — making them a popular early leafy green for hungry colonists and dandelion aficionados to this day. Their foliage is full of antioxidants, and are reputed to help build immune systems. Other benefits claimed are they can help people lose weight, perhaps even kill cancer cells. A spring-time tonic tea of the dried roots is said to support bile secretion, promote healthy digestion and fight constipation. Other possible uses include skincare treatments and healthy bone support.

In spite of previous admonitions to “save the dandelions!” I had and continue to pull those rascals because they tend to smother out everything when given half a chance. What serves as a “lawn” at my house is no monochromatic wasteland of just grass, but rather is a happy mix of all those things wild and cultivated blooming alongside the dandelions that manage to escape my attention. There’s a good dose of Dutch clover, several clumps of violets — both white and the purple ones — ground ivy, ajuga, gill-over-the-ground or creeping Charlie, mitosis (forget-me-nots) and more.

I never could join in the “dandelion shaming” of anyone who chose to remove them from their lawn, that is if they were pulling them, not inundating them with a bath of toxic chemicals and herbicides that eliminate anything other than grass. All along I’ve made it a point to track down and pull them whenever one of their cheerful yellow blooms popped up in the grass. The uprooted dandelions from my tiny lawn go into my compost pile to decompose and provide nutrients for all those other spring-flowering plants I allow to flourish.

Notoriously difficult to pull, I have a handy tool which extracts them easily without bending over. Then I can “shoot” the plant — root and all — into a bucket. And now it is a socially-accepted thing to do, I will enjoy that process even more. But of course if you prefer to let them have their way with your lawn, that’s okay with me too. From a high of good press to a fall from grace, the dandelion has had quite a ride in the past couple of years. But on the other hand there is always the “wish potential” of those puffy seed heads. Just don’t blow them in my direction.

Lynette L. Walther is the GardenComm Gold medal winner for writing and a five-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Medal of Achievement, the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. She is a member of GardenComm and the National Garden Bureau. Her gardens are in Camden.