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Taraxacum officinale

Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, woodlands, disturbed areas. Spring, summer, fall.
Lower Stoner Mesa Trail, May 27, 2004.

Golden Dandelion blooms carpet high mountain meadows in early spring.  Dandelions continue to  bloom, but to a lesser degree, into the fall.

Intermountain Flora states that because Taraxacum officinale hybridizes, has multiple chromosome structures, and reproduces sometimes by producing seeds even when not fertilized, the "taxonomy and nomenclature [of Taraxacum] are in a state of utter confusion.  Well over a thousand arcane microspecies have been described."

Linnaeus named this species Leontodon taraxacum in 1753 and it received its present name in 1779 from George Heinrich Weber.

Taraxacum officinale
Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, woodlands, disturbed areas. Spring, summer, fall.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 16, 2004.

Dandelions are a Eurasian species now entrenched almost world-wide because of their excellent seed dispersal mechanism and ease of germination.  Their crowded head of ray flowers produces numerous seeds, their low, wide basal leaves crowd-out competing plants,  and thus the plant is often found in huge colonies.

The specific epithet, "officinale", refers to the acceptance, centuries ago, of Dandelion roots as an "official" drug, i.e., one that you could purchase in an "office", a term used in the past for "a shop", or more specifically, "a pharmacy".

Various parts of the the plant are still commonly used in salads and wine-making. 

The common name is a condensation of the French "dent de lion" (also the Latin "Leontodon"), "lionís tooth", referring to the teeth on the leaves.  

"Taraxacum" is, according to the online Botanical Dictionary, "a  medieval name traceable through Arabic to the Persian "talkh chakok", meaning 'bitter herb' ", but Intermountain Flora states the "name [is] of doubtful origin, perhaps from the Greek tarassein, to stir up, referring to reputed medicinal qualities".

Taraxacum officinale

Taraxacum officinale

Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, woodlands, disturbed areas. Spring, summer, fall.
Ryman Creek Trail, June 16, 2005 and 2010; Bear Creek Trail, May 19, 2022.

Bring a small hand lens when you take walks and sit down to examine the intricacies of even the most common flowers. Notice several key morphological details:

1) Dandelion flower heads only have ray flowers; there are no disk flowers.
2) The petals (each from only one flower) are actually 5 petals fused. You can see the lines demarcating each of the fused petals and you can see the notches at the tip of each fusion. Look especially at the ray petal at the 12 o'clock position in the photograph immediately below.

                                  Taraxacum officinale

Taraxacum officinale
Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Foothills, montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, woodlands, disturbed areas. Spring, summer, fall.
Lower Stoner Mesa Trail, June 12, 2004.

Dandelion seed heads with their multitude of silvery white pappus hairs have a beauty --  and fun  --  of their own.

Click to see scanning electron micrographs of the seeds.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Taraxacum officinale