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Lost in a Field of Flowers

Dandelions 051At the first blossom they see, children are delighted. A large lawn dotted with its yellow flowers is a dream world to a child. She doesn’t just stay on the edge but wonders into the very center of the blooms, meandering through, running her fingers along blossoms as she passes. Surrounded by the bright yellow flowers, she kneels down among them. She proceeds to pick as many as her small hand can hold, making a bouquet. She buries her nose in them though she knows their scent isn’t sweet or delicious like some other flowers. Her fingers are smeared with a sticky, milk-like substance from the stem.  Right away, she learned not to lick her fingers after picking the flowers; the milky substance fills the mouth with a lasting bitter flavor. After her daydreaming and play among the blossoms, she takes the bouquet into the house for her mother, who then graciously thanks her and puts it in a vase.

Dandelions 083These flowers were imported from Europe long ago and have since taken off so well they are now considered a noxious weed by most. Their name in French, dent-de-lion refers to the teeth of its leaf edge, similar to the teeth of a lion. Ecologically, dandelions can be problematic in competing with and pushing out native grasses. However, they are the most important early spring flower for honeybees in Minnesota. Walking through the lawn with the first blooms, one sees several blossoms hosting honeybees. Also, the leaf is edible, offering a high vitamin and mineral content.

Dandelions 076Though a weed to adults, the dandelion is a treasure to children. As a child, I was overjoyed with the bloom of the first dandelions. Sitting among them, I would pick a few, twirling the stem between my thumb and my finger, watching the blossom spin. Fascinated, I rubbed the top of the blossom on my arm. I was intrigued by the yellow streak that remained. Of course, I tasted the sticky substance on my fingers left by the stem, for the five senses is how a child learns, including taste. This is true whether or not a child makes a conscious decision or just does it. Once having discovered the milky substance is extremely bitter in taste, a child will avoid tasting it again, if possible. The center of the blossom is soft and appealing. The leaves are smooth and cool.

Dandelions 104The blossom isn’t all that delights a child. As the plant matures the blossom is replaced by a globe-like seed head. Seed heads are soft, but there is a little course texture to it as well. The wind blows detaching the seed from the plant. They have fine hair-like bristles attached to each that acts like a tiny parachute, drifting up into the air, lazily floating for some distance before gently coming to rest on the ground. It is wonderful to stand in a field with these parachutes gliding past, sometimes a whole cloud of them. Though it is incredible to sit and watch the wind blow the seeds, it is more fun to a child to take on the role of the wind. After very carefully picking it, she holds it up to her face and takes a deep breath, filling her cheeks with air. Then with puckered lips, she slowly blows, watching the myriads of seeds take flight and drift away. Sometimes she has a few collide with her face but that is part of the experience. The lowly dandelion creates magic for a little girl.

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