In Whistler, dandelion flowers carpet the ground, colouring the spring landscape a bright yellow. On warm sunny days, we can watch bees, butterflies, hoverflies and beetles forage for nectar and pollen, while a black bear might be munching his lunch in a patch of dandelions.

Bears love to munch on early spring dandelions.

This Eurasia native flowering plant is packed with vitamins and antioxidants. In fact, it is a rich source of beta-carotene that can be converted into Vitamin A. It is also a good source of vitamins B1, B2, B5, B12, C, E and P. Additionally, dandelion contains high levels of iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc.

The health benefits of dandelion includes relief from liver disorders, diabetes, urinary disorders, acne, jaundice, cancer, and anemia. It also has been used for thousands of years as a food and a medicine to treat scurvy, skin conditions, stomach aches, asthma, low blood pressure, poor circulation, ulcers, constipation, blood disorders, and depression. Furthermore, it helps in maintaining bone health and weight loss.

There are many uses for dandelions. The stem or floret of dandelions can be eaten raw, boiled or infused into tea. Moreover, the roots can be ground into a coffee substitute, while the flowers can be made into wine.

Besides all the extraordinary health benefits dandelion provides us, it also has an important impact on garden biodiversity. Writer Reeser Manley from the Bangor Daily News explains; “The presence of dandelions in the lawn increases plant diversity by at least one species, insect diversity by the number of different nectar and pollen feeders, and other wildlife species diversity, including birds, through the absence of toxic chemicals.”

Bees and other pollinators depends on dandelions in early spring to feed.

Although dandelion flowers for most of the year, its blooming time peaks from late March to May, when many hungry bees and other pollinators emerge from hibernation. Dandelions are richer in pollen and nectar than most other spring flowers. They also bloom earlier, making this source of food a lifesaver for pollinators in spring.

Surely, the bees need the dandelions as an early source of nectar and pollen, but because of their lack of amino acids, bees cannot survive on dandelions alone. Just like us, they need to eat a wide variety of foods to be healthy. But until all the other flowers have bloomed perhaps we could take a couple of weeks off from mowing the lawn this spring, or at least stop treating our yards with herbicides and pesticides.

Lani Simone, owner-operator of Gooserock Farm, and an EAS-certified Master Beekeeper who maintains about 80 hives in suburban Morris County, NJ, informs:

“[…] probably the single most valuable early spring wildflower is the dandelion. If a hive survives the winter, beekeepers know the bees will be safe from starvation if they can stay alive until dandelions bloom. Dandelion pollen is moderately nutritious and the nectar is abundant. It doesn’t normally produce what we call a ‘surplus’, i.e. enough nectar to produce honey above and beyond what the bees will use for themselves, so you won’t generally see dandelion honey for sale, but it gives the bees a huge boost and adds to the health and wellbeing of the hive. So a very simple, easy way to help honey bees is to refrain from killing the dandelions in your lawn. They’re actually quite pretty. And next time you see a bare patch, think about planting Dutch clover instead of grass. The bees thrive on various weeds in lawns, including clover and plantain (from which they collect pollen). Do you really have to have that perfect, manicured, chemical-laden lawn?”

Beautiful fields of grass, flowers and dandelions.

Dandelions are recommended as an important early season pollinator plant. Removing some dandelions from your yard or harvesting a few roots for food or medicinal use shouldn’t negatively impact the bee population, yet we are encouraged to keep some in the garden to attract pollinators. If you need to clear them, consider adding early blooming trees, shrubs and flowers to your garden to help provide additional food and habitat for the bees and other pollinators.

This spring, let’s embrace the dandelions for the positive impact they have in the garden ecosystem, for feeding our bees and for brightening our early spring landscapes!