(To lawnistas) “the presence of dandelions on a lawn
indicates sloth has taken up residence in paradise and is
about to spread evil in every direction.”


Robert Fulford


"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."


Ralph Waldo Emerson


“--sin and dandelions are a whole lot alike-- very hard to
get rid of -- a life time battle that you never quite win. --
Sin and dandelions -- Give the problem to Jesus.”


Pastor Donald J. Gettys of the Mc Donald, Tennessee Seventh Day Adventist Church



As a bright and joyous kiss
From the breast of earth ye came
Fair and lovely are your cheeks
With sun-kisses all aflame


Frances Ellen Watkins





CULTURE WAR

"How do we win a war that draws on the innocence of youth to achieve its malicious designs?”
A few years ago, an inspector from the Department of Housing & Urban Development ordered a seniors’ housing project in East Hampton to eliminate all dandelions from its lawns because they were beneath HUD “AQS”. (Area Quality Standards) for the Hamptons.


“We hate dandelions”, sniffs the soccer mom in a Scott’s Lawn-Care commercial, as her husband, agile and bonny, rolls for a Frisbee on an expanse of pristine grass.

Cities, states and even a branch of the United States Government agree.

“Grub them out,” roars the California Agriculture Extension, warning of clumps that reduce the esthetic quality of turf grass and golfer footing on the fairways. Topping California, a Utah State University Horticulturist, Jerry Goodspeed, warns that dandelions "employ an evil, wicked plot …... that attracts any passing child.....(to) whimsically blow the dreadful seeds around the neighborhood.”

The wicked plot can cost you. Pueblo Colorado’s city code decrees a $300 fine plus eradication costs for dandelions that grow to 10 inches (easy for a well-fluted specimen) on a property's lawn.

Aberdeen South Dakota outlawed them as far back as 1909, when its mayor Alva Aldrich beseeched town residents to “eradicate this evil from their lawns”. Over the years, aided by the American Legion, Aberdeen conducted a number of search and destroy missions,
offering bounties per pound equivalent to the prevailing price of wheat. Tons were burned. All to no avail. In 2006, Sue Gates, a columnist for the Aberdeen American News, wrote that 100 years after the war was declared “the fight to eradicate the pesky weed from the lawns of Aberdeen continues”.

Botanical nativists consider them illegal aliens. My sister, a Berkeley liberal long before the term meant much, gladly welcomes aspiring immigrants of all stripe, but abhors dandelions, though they were brought here from Europe in the early 19th Century, (to succor honeybees) decades before our forbears arrived.

To the Taraxacumuphobe, it matters not that poets from Shakespeare to Lowell, Emerson, Thomas Wolfe and Ginsberg have rhapsodized their beauty, (TW “the inchoate, sharp excitement of hot dandelions in young earth”)or that chefs such as Pierre Frenay, Julia Childs and Craig Claiborne extolled their culinary virtues, or nutritionists their vitamin and mineral content, (more iron and calcium than spinach, more beta-carotene than carrots).

Dandelion lovers revere what dandelion haters detest, their wildness and unpredictability. “Their only sin,” asserts one admirer “is that they have not learned to grow in rows.” Another equates dandelions’ with the 19th Century buffalo - noble, useful and targeted for extinction.

Dandelion lovers revere what dandelion haters detest, their wildness and unpredictability. “Their only sin,” asserts one admirer “is that they have not learned to grow in rows.” Another equates dandelions’ with the 19th Century buffalo - noble, useful and targeted for extinction.

Both sides see dandelions as a moral issue. Robert Fulford, a Canadian writer and dandelion admirer, observes that the presence of dandelions on a lawn indicates to lawnistas that “sloth has taken up residence in paradise and is about to spread evil in every direction.” To Fulford a bumpless, weedless lawn champions the intrusive values of imperialism - control and cleansing one’s surroundings of the unkempt. On the other side, Pastor Donald J. Gettys of the Mc Donald, Tennessee Seventh Day Adventist Church preaches that “sin and dandelions are a whole lot alike ---- very hard to get rid of ---- a life time battle that you never quite win. --- Sin and dandelions” he concludes, “Give the problem to Jesus.”

I cheer them. Dandelion greens, plucked from vacant lots of San Francisco, were a basic vegetable for my family during the depression. John Giannaris, owner of the Hellenic Diner Restaurant in East Marion tells me that during World War II dandelions kept his family alive. During the final days of the war, I saw Polish displaced persons and German Army deserters survive on them.

Busy proliferating, often where one least expects to find them, the dandelions remain impervious to all this. Last spring, on a sunny, spring day I found dandelions sprouting through the base of a street lamp, the shell of an air conditioner, the trunk of an oak tree, and the wood of an inside window sill.

Though at their peak in spring, dandelions continue to pop up, through the year into those early January days when the temperature nears 50. Bend close to grass that has not been sprayed and you will find one. Pick it. Bite into its stem and hold it in your mouth. Relish the nip of juice that will refresh your lungs and bear the flowers’ progeny to the next cycle, and the next and ever beyond where dandelions will continue to taunt and sustain us.
SOURCES:

Pests in Landscapes and Gardens DANDELIONS, Published 1/00, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Department

Pueblo, Colorado City Code, Chapter 4, Section 7

Instructions to eliminate dandelions given the Windmill Village Housing Development Corp., East Hampton, NY by a HUD inspector, May 2004

Julia Childs & Co Alfred Knopf & Co, 1978, page 56.

Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book 1978 Athaneum, pages 250-51

The Long Voyage Home, Thomas Wolfe, Charles Scribner’s, 1929, P. 69

The Conceited Apple Branch, Hans Christian Andersen

Dandelions – Take The Bite Out of The Lion’s Teeth, Dennis Hinkamp, 6/16/06

The Lawn, North America’s Magnificent Obsession, Robert Fulford, Azure, July-August 1998

Sin and Dandelions, Sermon delivered 6/26/04 by Pastor Donald J Gettys, Mc Donald Road Seventh Day Adventist Church, Mc Donald, Tennessee

Aberdeen Wages War on Dandelions, by Sue Gates, Aberdeen (South Dakota) American News, 4/30/06