A perennial herb with a long taproot and a basal rosette of oblong entire or toothed or deeply pinnately divided leaves. In early spring hollow scapes are produced. These are terminated by solitary heads of numerous yellow ligulate florets surrounded by two rows of involucral bracts; the inner onces erect, the outer ones spreading. When the flowers have faded the head turns into a ball of long, ribbed, spiny achenes, with a pappus of white hairs at the end of a long stem or 'beak'. All parts of the plant contain lactiferous ducts; the latex is non-poisonous.
The roots, flowering stems, leaves (collected before flowering) and flowerheads are used medicinally. The root is the most active part. The constituents include the terpenoid bitter compounds taraxacin and taraxacerin, a glycoside, sterols, amino acids. tannins, inulin (up to 25 per cent), mineral substances, rubber (caoutchouc) and provitamin A, vitamins B and C (in leaves). These substances give Dandelion hitter tonic, stomachic, cholagogic, nutritive and strong diuretic properties. It is used in an infusion to stimulate the appetite, aid digestion, for biliary and liver disorders, dropsy, rheumatism and arthritis. The pressed juice from the stalks or leaves is an effective cure for warts. The fresh young leaves can be eaten raw as a spring salad. The flowers contain carotenoids and triterpenes. They are used, boiled with sugar, for coughs but honey has greater medicinal value. They can be made into an excellent wine.
The roots, dried, roasted and ground, make a caffeine-free coffee substitute.
Dandelion, a native of Europe, is a common weed of grassland, gardens and waste places on nitrogen-rich soils. It is one of the most useful of native British medicinal herbs as all parts of the plant are effective and safe to use; it is regarded as one of the best herbal remedies for kidney and liver complaints. The common name, Dandelion, is a corruption through the French dent de lion (= lion's tooth) of the Medieval Latin name dens leon is, after the jagged edge of the leaves.
Flowing time: April to October