ERIC BERGESON: Dandelions
This is the season for the favorite flower of children, the dandelion. If you rub a dandelion under your chin and your skin turns yellow, you like butter -- at least according to an old wives tale found in cultures worldwide. Blow away the dandel...
This is the season for the favorite flower of children, the dandelion.
If you rub a dandelion under your chin and your skin turns yellow, you like butter -- at least according to an old wives tale found in cultures worldwide.
Blow away the dandelion seeds and you can tell the future by counting how many seeds are left, according to other superstitions.
Five-year-olds love to pick a sticky dandelion bouquet and present it as a prized gift to an adult, who usually has to strain to act appreciative.
Children also love to break dandelion stems to see the white milk appear.
Or, they make a dandelion chain by inserting the small end of stems into the long end of other stems.
When children see a dandelion, they see beauty and potential.
But when adults, particularly adult males, look at the same flower they see a mortal enemy.
In the quest for the perfect, dandelion-free lawn, American men dump more tons of chemical on their lawns than farmers dump on all of their farm fields combined.
The chemicals that have been used to kill dandelions aren't benign, either. They are suspected to cause cancer and other illnesses.
But even safety concerns won't stop males engaged in a life-and-death struggle to have the most perfect lawn in the neighborhood. They spray with a vengeance.
Dandelion sprays are volatile. Sometimes the chemical gets up and moves around the yard at night, killing every broadleaf in sight, including trees and shrubs.
When the little lady's newly-planted flowers show up dead in the morning, there is just no way, no way in the world that the man of the house is at fault. Nope, he was very careful.
But Mr. Turfmaster knows very well what happened back in the garage when he mixed the spray: If a little chemical is good, he thought to himself as he threw in an extra capful, a lot is better.
And what good are trees and flowers anyway? They just get in the way when you mow. They're almost as bad as the dandelions.
So the little dandelion, the very symbol of childhood innocence and playfulness, often becomes a hapless pawn in the ongoing battle between the sexes.
Recent estimates show that a mere 15 percent of American males are tolerant of dandelions, while fully 57 percent of females don't mind the flower. The dandelion gender gap is stark.
But this may change.
While rummaging through the UND library archives during college, I found a letter that indicated that during World War II, with rubber in short supply, scientists gave thought to using dandelion roots to make rubber.
Opportunistic farmers in the Red River Valley planned to raise entire fields of the plant, hoping to get rich. They wrote their senator, asking for help to locate a rubber plant in our area.
Before anything came of the dandelion rubber project, the war ended. Trade routes opened. Rubber from South America and Southeast Asia reentered our markets.
Today, with the rubber tree killed off by disease in South America, natural rubber, which is still preferred over the fake stuff, is again in short supply.
To address the issue, the government in 2008 gave a $3 million grant to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center to look into making rubber from dandelion roots.
If the research succeeds, the very men who have been zapping their lawns with chemical to kill the dandelions might soon brag at the café about a big crop of a plant that they once killed!
Meanwhile, women have long secretly admired the dandelion. During the war, frugal housewives used dandelion greens as a salad.
High in Vitamin A, Vitamin C and iron, the bitter dandelion leaf tastes milder if picked just as the sun comes up at five in the morning, according to a local homemaker, now deceased.
This is all to say that the dandelion has many possible uses -- and not just for naïve children.
So, instead of pouring chemical on our lawns to eradicate every last dandelion, perhaps it is time we learned to love the weed.
Once you learn to love a weed, of course, it ceases to be a weed. You don't have to pull it, spray it or curse at it.
If we return to a child-like love of dandelions, our lives would be a whole lot easier and safer.
Who knows, dandelions may even make us rich!
Contact Bergeson at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site at www.countryscribe.com