26 May 2011

Dandelions win one!

Finally, a victory for that cheerful harbinger of spring, the common dandelion. The Alberta government has removed the little yellow fellow from the list of noxious weeds in the province's Weed Control Act. Municipal bylaw officers will now no longer be able to fine homeowners who let dandelions overtake their yards. Calgary's pest management co-ordinator Simon Wilkins says officials in Calgary have more serious weed problems to tackle than dandelions anyway.

Of course they do. Indeed, listing dandelions as noxious is pretty noxious in itself. They are edible in their entirety: leaves delicious in salads, flowers good for making wine and roots for making a coffee. And the little plant is more than tasty. Its long taproot brings up nutrients for shallower-rooting plants and adds minerals and nitrogen to the soil. It also attracts pollinating insects and releases ethylene gas which helps fruit to ripen. Noxious indeed!

I have always enjoyed the delightful surprises the dandelion offer the city dweller. That bright yellow head pushing up through a crack in the sidewalk in early spring, for example, sending the heart-warming message that winter is finally over, about the least noxious message a Canadian can get. And to see an ugly vacant lot suddenly transformed by a carpet of yellow—the whole neighbourhood is brightened.

True, they do look a little ratty as they go to seed, but that's a small price to pay for the charm they offer. In any case, I'm looking a bit grey and weedy myself in my old age. So cheers for the dandelions—long may they gladden the hearts of Albertans.

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