dandelion [Eng. form of Fr., = lion's tooth], any plant of the genus Taraxacum of the family Asteraceae (aster family), perennial herbs of wide distribution in temperate regions. The dandelion has a rosette of deep-toothed leaves (the name is usually attributed to this) and a bright yellow flower followed in fruit by a round head of white down, an adaptation for wind distribution of the seedlike fruits. The common dandelion ( T. officinale ) is native to Europe but widely naturalized. Although it is considered in the N United States chiefly as a lawn pest because of the easily dispersed seeds and the deep root, it is also cultivated both for medicine and for food. The young leaves resemble chicory and are used for salad greens and as a potherb, especially in Europe. The roots may be roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The flower heads are utilized for dandelion wine and are good forage for bees. In medicine the roots have been dried and used chiefly as a bitter tonic and laxative. The Russian dandelion ( T. kok-saghyz ) has been cultivated for the milky juice typical of the genus, as a source of rubber. Dandelions are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Asterales, family Asteraceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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