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As Long as Little Girls Love Dandelions . . .

This dandelion, bigger than my daughter from root to flower at the time, could feed a family of four.

This dandelion, bigger than my daughter from root to flower at the time, could feed a family of four.

Dandelions are a hot topic right now as April turns to May. The airways are positively alive with advertisements for how to kill the so-called weeds. Neighbors will go to war with other neighbors who dare allow the flowers to grow unfettered in their yards, as if the property values will plummet from the proximity to the scourge.

Capitalizing on all this white-hot hatred of a plant has become a huge industry in North America, up to $40 billion depending on who’s data you count and what categories of fertilizing and killing are included.

Whenever I see my daughter, Aimee, outside, however, I’m reminded that hating dandelions is not a birthright. Little boys and girls universally enter the world in love with dandelions . . . and clover and Johnny jump-ups and most any other flowers for that matter. Children even love the dandelion seed heads that adults seem to loathe most of all. Kids pluck them and blow them and delight as the seeds dance on the breeze until coming to rest at their anointed spot on the lawn.

Aimee, especially, seems drawn to flowers. The cross-pollination of two professional gardeners, Aimee can’t quite understand why everyone’s yard in the neighborhood is not as bountiful as ours when it comes to flowers Mother Nature plants naturally.

Or, perhaps, Aimee is the prodigy of her great grandmother, who — at 89 years and one day apart from my daughter in age — used to spend her days going door to door on Reeves Road in Bradford, Maine, asking her neighbors if she good dig their dandelions. Gram called her haul a good “mess of greens” and would gleefully force feed them to me while telling me they were “good for what ails” me.

I have asked people the rhetorical question at every stop on my road for the past 17 years or so: “How did we get from the 1960s, when we considered dandelions good food, to now, when people spend hard-earned money to purge their patch of paradise of any non-grass plants?”

The answer, of course, is marketing, a manufactured definition of landscape beauty that’s not unlike the sculpted, Photoshopped and cropped manipulation of the photos on celebrity magazines. Dandelions are lawn pimples to be popped, they’re wrinkles to be injected with Botox.

In 50 years we’ve gone from a waste-not-want-not culture where the lawn was a free salad bar, to a waste-all-want-all society where we’re willing to apply toxic substances to our landscapes for the sake of someone’s perception of attractive.

It would be easy to get cynical, except that I have Aimee to remind me that this, too, shall pass.

As long as little girls love dandelions — and they always will — we will have a chance to change the world.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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