Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Yellow (11/12/09)
TITLE: Those Demon Yellow Dandelions!
By Kathy Warnes
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When the poet Emerson said, "A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered," he had to be talking about dandelions. As a dedicated gardener with trowel in hand about to attack the broad expanse of yellow manes waving in the wind, I will argue that the dandelion's virtues will forever be undiscovered because they have none. As a determined lawn owner grubbing up dandelion roots with about 300 to go, I will mutter darkly about dousing the buttery blossoms with weed killer instead of looking for their virtues.
But as an admirer of free spirits, I can appreciate the dandelion as an individual in its own right. I can accept it as a flower-weed that leaves its imprint on the heart and mind as well as on the lawn. Even the name "dandelion" is poetic. Dandelion comes from the French, "dent de lion", which means tooth of the lion. I see a tawny lion sitting in the midst of a field of dandelions, his mane and teeth stained yellow from sniffing, eating, blowing and rolling in dandelions.
The dandelion's family tree is scientific as well as French. The dandelion is a perennial that blooms in the spring and the summer throughout the temperate zone of planet earth. Its roots can extend from four to five feet deep into the ground,. The blossom of the dandelion is actually a bouquet of about 150-200 flowers set in a solid head. Each flower is a perfect seed-producing unit. Dandelions behave differently at night than they do in the day time. Their heads close up tightly as soon as the sun goes down, which gives a sort of yellow symbolism to their behavior. On dark days when pollinating insects don't fly, dandelion heads also remain closed. Later in the season when the flowers are fertilized, the heads bend downward to the ground where they lie protected until the seeds are ripe. Then the flower stalks become erect, the heads open again, and the parachutes on the seeds expand.
The dandelion is a world traveler. Its seeds form hundreds of tiny parachutes that float away on the wind to land in the next field - or Africa. Dandelion seeds can soak in the ocean for 28 days, be carried a thousand miles along the coast, and still germinate.
Despite the reality of a dandelion's life, it manages to thrive. Its bitter taste causes moles, rabbits, and insect grubs to avoid it. The rosette of leaves is also very bitter, so bitter that grazing animals don't gobble it along with their grass. No matter how many times a determined lawn owner uproots the dandelion, back it grows unless its tap root is yanked from deep in the cold, clingy spring ground. The flower stalks of the dandelion employ the principles of hollow tube construction, a principle that engineers say this is the strongest and most economic material. Even the strongest winds fail to snap off a dandelion stem. Its breaking point comes when tiny, stained fingers snap it off its stem to become part of a mason-jar kitchen table bouquet for mother.
There is magic in dandelions. As a child, I would stand at the edge of a field of yellow dandelions, watching them nod their heads in the wind like yellow sail boats. I'd play "butter" with myself, tickling myself under the chin with dandelions. Occasionally, a carefully chosen friend would come with me to the dandelion sea and we'd play butter and laugh at the telltale yellow marks on each others' chins.
Dandelions are a sure thing in this uncertain world. We can be certain that they will grow and thrive every year, and we know with equal certainty that we will do everything in our technological power to prevent them from conquering our lawns and gardens.
On the other hand, it's impossible for me not to have a grudging admiration for the courage of the dandelion. It does, indeed, thrive on adversity and manages to nod its cheerfully oblivious yellow head in the spring breeze, its roots firmly planted in the garden and lawn that I doctored with dandelion destroyer just last week. I can't stay angry at the dandelion. It's too free-spirited, brave, adventurous, too appealing to the romantic in me. And it's permanent. People change, but dandelions don't. There's a lot of comfort in knowing that God created free spirited yellow dandelions and they are always there like He is.
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