Taraxacum officinale (lions-tooth, blow-ball, cankerwort, pissabed, priest’s crown, swine’s snout)

description: herbaceous perennial

place of origin:

urban habitat:
commonly found in minimally maintained lawns in residential, commercial, and public landscapes, in vacant lots, rubble dumps, in pavement openings, drainage ditches, along highway banks and medians, and railroads; it grows well in a variety of conditions.

ecological function:
disturbance-adapted colonizer of bare ground; loosens hard packed soil; food for wildlife.

history: Taraxacum officinale arrived early in North America, documented as early as 1672 as a forage for cattle. Named “dent-de-lion” (French for “lion’s tooth") for the sharp toothed appearance of its leaves, the plant has a long history of medicinal uses, including use as a diuretic, laxative, weak antibiotic and to treat ailments of the liver, kidney, and bladder. It has also been used to treat edema associated with high blood pressure, joint pain, gout, eczema and acne. The latex contained within the plant stem has been used to remove corns and warts. Native American tribes across North America used the dandelion for a wide range of medicinal purposes, including for treatment of bone fractures, bruises, swelling, gastrointestinal ailments, menstrual cramps, heartburn, as well as consuming it as food. Its leaves are rich in iron, calcium, zinc, potassium, and vitamins A, B complex, C and D and its root is currently being tested as a potential treatment for malignant melanoma. Its leaves are edible and have long been consumed raw or cooked in many countries. Both the leaves and roots are used as flavoring in beers and soft drinks and are used to make tea and wine. The ground roots have been used as a coffee substitute or additive. The dandelion is cited as the reason behind the modern widespread use of herbicides to control its spread in residential lawns.

Georgetown University Urban Herbs