The commonest of troublesome weeds is the dandelion, which in summer has a golden flower head and in the autumn a round fluffy ball or 'clock'. The flower head is made up of many small flowers, or florets, which show that it belongs to the Compositae (daisy-like) family. The French-speaking Normans probably called the plant the dent de lion (lion's tooth) because they thought that the deep, jagged edges of the leaf resembled a row of lion's teeth, and the name gradually changed into the one used today. Dandelions are among the flowers found in the Arctic during the summer there.
The reason why the dandelion is such a difficult plant to get rid of when it is growing on the lawn is because its root is very long and thick and a deep hole must be dug to remove it completely so that the plant will not grow again. This root, as well as the stalks, are full of milky juice, or latex, which is used in rubber-making experiments.
On waste land the leaves stand up, on the lawn they lie on the ground in a rosette. This is because when the plant is growing wild the leaves can only get enough light and air by growing up, but on a lawn there is no competition as the grass is kept short and so they develop sideways. The lawnmower also helps them to do this by flattening the little ones. The young leaves add flavour to salads, and dandelion wine has long been brewed from the flowers. There are two rows of tiny leaves called bracts, under the flower head. The inner row stands upright round the head and the outer turns back. Later the first turns back too, to free the small dry seeds, each of which has a tiny parachute of white down attached to it. These parachutes form the 'clock', and when they are blown off by the wind or by a child's breath they carry the seed away and so, if it takes root, it grows without crowding the parent plant.
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