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Nothing says spring like golden dandelions smiling at you from the lawn. Well, the lawn purists would say taunting–and they might be surprised to learn dandelions weren’t always weeds.

Dandelions

Signs of spring (photo by Kim Rendfeld)

The Puritans brought seeds to North America for medicinal purposes. At that time,  the plants had been used as a drug for centuries. Appearing in 10th century medical journals of Arab physicians, dandelions became valued among 16th century apothecaries. Some traditional uses include diuretic, blood purifier, and treatment to join and knit wounds.

So when you consider of the Puritans’ perspective, taking dandelion seeds on the boat makes sense. They were traveling to a foreign land, where they didn’t know what would plants be useful or what the farming conditions were like. Why not take along a tough perennial that grows darn near everywhere and provides remedies for a variety of ailments?

The Puritans weren’t the only settlers to prize the plant. Spaniards introduced dandelions to California and Mexico, and the French brought them to Canada.

In 21st century America, I choose to be on the side that enjoys dandelions and lets them have the lawn (but not my flowerbeds). After all, they’ve been here a while, and they’re not going away.

Sources

Introduced Species Summary Project

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

Dictionary of Plant Lore by Donald Watts

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