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Plants of the Western Slope April 26, 2017

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Photo by E. Horn Dandelion plant
Photo by Al Schneider Dandelion flower
Photo by Al Schneider Dandelion fruit

Dandelion

Gray again. Light gray sky, dark gray sky, and angry-looking gray clouds everywhere. And I wonder if it will every stop being gray. I can hear the wind whipping around our house and I can even feel the chill entering around the window. My, what ever happened to spring?

A few days ago I saw yellow spots in our lawn and wondered about dandelions. But the wind came up and I didn't go look. Today there's more wind but I can see three little yellow spots that look like dandelions. I'd bet that they are.

Sometimes you don't even know what they are, as they appear to be just green blobs buried in the green grass. There are at least four dandelion buds in the first picture on the left. The large leaves are roughly toothed. And then the buds open into bright, yellow blossoms (the second picture in the series. from Al Schneider's website).

But the blossoms are rather special for they are all ray flowers. Most flowers have bracts (the outer supporting structures). If you look at a dandelion carefully, you'll see that there are no center or disk flowers (most of our flowers have both ray and disk flowers). It may appear that there are disk flowers, but a quick check with your magnifying glass will show that the center is actually made up of growing, immature ray flowers. And thereby you've been introduced to the Chicory group of the sunflower family, the world's largest family (excluding the orchids of the rainforests). The Chicory group includes the lovely magenta-flowered Skeleton Plant, our ordinary Blue Lettuce, and Hawksbeard. While the picture on the far right, of course, is the familiar "puff-ball."

There are many, many dandelions and the discussions of them are complex as well as self-contradictory. I personally think that they are lovely, even though I know that they will be a problem! They can cover an area (never mind the different species) from the low lands all the way up to the alpine tundra. Botanically, dandelion is known as the world's most successful weed!

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Surface Creek
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Evelyn Horn, Plants of the Western Slope
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