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HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Taraxacum officinale

Taraxacum officinale

The Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale, Weber ex F.H.Wigg. 1780), known above all with the name dandelion, is a flowering plant of the Asteraceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point the dandelion belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Spermatophyta Superdivision, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Sottoclasse Asteridae, Asterales Order, Asteraceae Family, Cichorioideae Subfamily, Cichorieae Tribe, Crepidinae Sottotribu and therefore to the Genus Taraxacum and to the Species T. officinale .

Etymology –
The term Taraxacum, according to some authors, derives from the Greek τάραχος tárachos disorder and from ἄκος ácos remedy, in the sense of remedy for every evil; according to Calflora it is a medieval name derived through Arabic from the ancient Persian talkh chakok which means bitter grass; according to The Free Dictionary, the term comes from the medieval Latin derived from the Arabic tarakhshaqūn wild chicory, perhaps of Persian origin. The specific epithetic instead of offícina, medieval workshop; ie usable in pharmaceuticals, herbal medicine, liquor, perfumery and the like. The common Taràssaco is also known as: dandelion, dog’s tooth, dandelion, wild chicory, chicory donkey, pork snout, fatten, brusocus, pork salad, pisciacane, lappa, missinina, piscialletto, sunflower of the meadows, grass of the pig.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Taraxacum officinale grows everywhere, in fertile meadows and uncultivated, between February and May, up to an altitude of 2000 m s.l.m. and in some cases with a pest. It is a typical plant of the temperate climate and, even if it does not need soil and particular exposures to grow, it prefers a loose soil and open spaces, sunny or in the shade.

Description –
Taraxacum officinale is a perennial herbaceous species with a more or less cylindrical vertical rhizome that continues to form a tap root. in the upper part the rhizome presents numerous semicircular scars due to the insertions of the leaves of the previous years. It has simple stems, fistulous without leaves, up to 40 cm tall. The leaves, which are united in a basal rosette, can be more or less erect or lying on the ground with a lanceolate or oboval and irregularly incised shape; the apex is often triangular, the arcuate or falciform lobes. It has flowers gathered in flower heads worn individually at the apex of the fistulous stems; the flower heads form an envelope with several series of bracts; the flowers have a prolonged tubular corolla in a normally yellow and orange ligula only in the peripheral flowers. From these forms a fruit (achenio) bislong that leads to the apex the pappus composed of branched bristles and arranged in the form of an umbrella.

Cultivation –
It is a herbaceous species that can be reproduced efficiently by seed with a particularity. In fact, its reproduction is very efficient and asexual. In practice, each seed produces a plant that is a clone of that from which it is derived. This creates a particular systematic situation, in which a species is, from the biological point of view, an agglomeration of many subspecies (up to seventy) that propagate in an always identical way but without hybridizing among themselves. In fact, dandelion is a living cloner. For the cultivation technique, the following sheet can be consulted.

Uses and Traditions –
The history of Taraxacum officinale is curious. It was already known to the ancients but they did not eat it because it was considered too bitter, and they did not use it much even in medicine, at least to judge from the texts of Greek-Roman medical writers. The plant became important later during the Renaissance, when it was identified as one of the most important purification remedies. The dandelion contains a white latex, non-irritating but which can cause allergies in sensitive individuals, and has properties similar to rubber; for this reason in the Second World War, a variety of dandelions was cultivated in Russia to produce rubber for tires (this because the Japanese had taken possession of the Java rubber crops). At that time it was used as a substitute for coffee in Italy. Dandelion is a very interesting edible plant but it is advised not to use plants that grow in urban environments as this species has the ability to accumulate heavy metals. It is an important melliferous plant as it blooms early and prolongs the flowering until late autumn, providing nectar to the bees in periods when the blooms are scarce. The dandelion honey is, moreover, very well known and appreciated.

Preparation Mode –
Almost everything is eaten of dandelion. The tender rosettes of the spring leaves are eaten in salads or cooked as purifying vegetables. It is a very sought-after plant because it really is one of the best spring vegetables to be presented on our tables: often, in fact, it is specially cultivated. However it is better to use spontaneous plants and grown far from inhabited centers. Its bitter taste provides the body with digestion, so it makes the plant an ideal side dish for all dishes. The leaves of the dandelion are often used also raw, seasoned with oil, vinegar and salt as a fresh salad. Also in this case the results are excellent.

Guido Bissanti

– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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