Wednesday, May 20, 2009


To be brutally honest with you all, I had never given much thought to the name 'dandelion'. If anything, I just presumed that the yellow flower head (prior to turning into the seed parachute you see in the pictures above) reminded people of a lion's mane. A particularly dandy lion's mane, since it was so cheerful and yellow. However, it turns out that dandelion is actually a corruption of the French name, dent de lion, or "teeth of the lion". The toothsome name refers to the teeth-like patterning of the leaves.
But what does the common man on the street, or rather in the garden, call this tasty plant? A wee (ahem) bit of research on Wikipedia has yielded some rather more diuretic results regarding the name's origin. In modern French, for example, it is called pissenlit, which means to 'urinate in bed' (lit is French for bed, and I'm sure you can all figure the rest of the word out!). In England it is commonly called pissabeds, whilst the Italians prefer to called it piscialletto (letto being, once again, bed).

Poor old flower! What names to be saddled with! Well, urine associations aside, there's nothing like the simple joy of watching Grumbles happily blow on the seeds, dispersing the autumn bounty in the hope that next year there are ten-fold more dandelions to watch out for.


  1. When i grew up we were told not to pick them or we'd wet the bed. We called them pittle-le-beds!

  2. In Germany, we just call them "Löwenzahn", which also means Lion's tooth (same explanation as in French). When the flower turns into the fluffy thingie, it's called "Pusteblume", which means: blowflower, because you can do what Grumbles does in the pictures :-)

    So, in Germany we have a nice name for it, I think :-)

  3. Here are some interesting facts about the dandelion flower:-)

    * The dandelion is the only flower that represents the 3 celestial bodies of the sun, moon and stars. The yellow flower resembles the sun, the puff ball resembles the moon and the dispersing seeds resemble the stars.

    * The dandelion flower opens to greet the morning and closes in the evening to go to sleep.

    * Every part of the dandelion is useful: root, leaves, flower. It can be used for food, medicine and dye for coloring.

    * Up until the 1800s people would pull grass out of their lawns to make room for dandelions and other useful “weeds” like chickweed, malva, and chamomile.

    * The average American recognizes thousands of logos for commercial products, yet recognizes fewer than five plants that grow in his/her area. Dandelions are most likely one of those familiar plants.

    * The name dandelion is taken from the French word “dent de lion” meaning lion’s tooth, referring to the coarsely-toothed leaves.

    * Dandelions have one of the longest flowering seasons of any plant.

    * Seeds are often carried as many as 5 miles from their origin!

  4. Gorgeous photos and v. interesting post about the word origins! (The "wee" associations really have me wondering....)


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