Our Uncommon Dandelion


From elegant bud, through glorious bloom, to familiar seed head, the Texas dandelion (Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus) adds flair to spring and early summer mornings. Also known as false dandelion, or smallflower desert-chicory, this lovely native can be breathtaking when it overspreads a country field, but even a single flower delights.

Comments always are welcome.


34 thoughts on “Our Uncommon Dandelion

    1. Is it this prairie dandelion that you’re eager to see? It’s a pretty one, but I see it’s uncommon, and endangered in your area. We have another one called the white dandelion, or white rock-lettuce, which resembles chicory and skeleton plant. They’re all such pretty flowers.

  1. It’s hard to pass one of these without wanting to fluff it to your face like we did as school kids. That softness, that fairy dust powder on those intricate little blooms. They were like the old fashion powder puffs your mom had but never let you touch.
    Love the first picture – it’s like a ballerina on stage waiting for that first orchestra note.

    1. I wouldn’t have thought of the dandelion as a powder puff, but that’s because it’s so firmly associated in my mind with butter. Putting one under a friend’s chin was the test for whether they liked butter, or not. I suppose the clinging pollen — that bit of yellow — was the sign.

      I’m glad you like the bud. I do, too. It seemed so unusual I double-checked to be sure it actually was a dandelion. It was a beautiful lemon chiffon pie yellow that the photo shows fairly accurately. It would be beautiful done in glass, like the Harvard flowers.

        1. Apparently so. Check for butter-lovers was an almost reflexive response to seeing a dandelion — at least, if there was a friend nearby to harass.

  2. When you see the series of three forms, it’s an amazing feat that Nature’s pulled off, transforming like an incredibly intricate and beautiful architectural toy. Great shots.

    1. Looking at the three stages together, it is amazing that they’re so different from one another. Each photo is of a different flower, of course, and each from a different location, but as I recall they all were taken within days of each other. One thing’s certain: if you’ve seen one dandelion, you haven’t seen them all!

  3. This is one place where a math teacher gets to show that a negative times a negative makes a positive. The dandelion that European settlers were familiar with from Europe is “false” here in America, i.e. non-native, i.e. negative. When those settlers encountered the species you’ve shown in this post, they called it a false dandelion, thereby making it a non-non-native, which is to say a native.

    1. What a wonderful, playful little trip through the dandelion fields. The negation of dandelions made sense, but I needed a refresher on the math concept, so off I went to class. After a couple of viewings, that made sense, too: even though it still feels counter-intuitive.

      Double negatives in language are interesting, too. “Non-non-native” is a good one.

      1. We went to the local REI yesterday morning to check out items at the annual sale. I asked a clerk if a certain brand of shoes was on sale, and he said there was indeed 20% off on that brand. He then went on to tell me what the approximate price would be of the pair of shoes I was interested in. When I replied that I rarely encounter people who can do mental arithmetic, he said he reads Khan Academy to keep his mind agile.

        1. I use the site more often than I could have predicted when I found it. One of the best ways to know if I’ve understood a video is to read through the comments-and-questions section. That’s how I learned why a dot was used as a symbol for multiplication in the linked video, rather than the “x” I’ve been accustomed to.

  4. You know, Linda, I still enjoy blowing a dandelion’s seed head! Guess we never get too old for familiar pastimes from childhood. And don’t even think I’m in my “second childhood” — I’m not THAT old, ha!!

    1. I’ll tell you a secret, Debbie. There are times when I think I’ve left my second childhood so far behind, I must be in my sixth or seventh. And it is fun to be the wind’s helper and blow away some seeds — especially when it’s such a pretty flower that’s being spread.

      Now that I think about it, I wonder how they keep them out of the golf courses around here. I suppose that’s what the grounds crews are for. I can’t remember ever seeing a dandelion of any sort on a golf course.

    1. In my perfect world, all the dandelions would be natives, and no one would weed them — although a plucked bouquet for a mother or favorite neighbor still would be the custom. You can’t believe how beautiful they are combined with other flowers. A couple of years ago, the “vacant” lot across from me looked like this. It’s my version of Southern Exposure.

  5. I’d never heard the seed heads called “clocks” until I encountered the term “dandelion clock” in something I was reading — had to go look it up. I had a friend who kept draft horses — percherons, One of whom took obvious delight in “huffing” dandelion clocks and watching the seeds float away. Not the sort of behavior you’d expect from a ton of horse. Then he’d munch the plant. Horses like them. I hear tell the flowers make good wine, which brings up the title of the Ray Bradbury book, “Dandelion Wine” — If you’ve never read any Bradbury, that’s an excellent place to start. You’d probably like it.

    Your pictures bring to mind the etchings of dandelions done by Aubry Beardsley, though doubtless his are the European variety.

    Re: “The dandelion that European settlers were familiar with from Europe is “false” here in America — ” ethnocentricity strikes again.

    1. I’m just thinking about this: if a dandelion seed head is a clock, and we blow away the seeds, are we making time fly?

      I’m not surprised that horses would like dandelions, but the thought of one playing with their seeds is amusing. I grew up with dandelion (and rhubarb) wine. It was a midwestern staple, at least in our neighborhoods.

      And while I wouldn’t necessarily have connected Beardsley with dandelions, I found a fine example combining dandelions and a snake. What I’m unsure of is whether the image is a bookplate, with the name of its owner added, or whether it’s just a sly reference to dent-de-lion and the biting ability of the snake.

  6. A beautiful sequence of the dandelion. The photos are excellent, Linda. I don’t mow them in the spring since sometimes it’s the only flower around for the bees to use a nectar source.

    1. And not only the bees. I’ve been amazed by the number and variety of beetles, flies, bugs, and moths that feed on flowers — as well as the butterflies, of course. I’ve heard a couple of presentations on wildscapes this spring, and the speakers emphasize planting a variety of flowers to achieve just what you mention: a season-long source of nectar and pollen.

  7. Last spring when Peggy and I made our trip around North America following my bike route, much of it was in “early spring” as we climbed up mountains or headed north into Canada. The one common flower along the way was the ever cheerful and bright dandelion. I have many photos, but never too many! :) –Curt

    1. Dandelions are dandy, that’s what I think. The only thing dandier would be following the path they threaded through such a vast amount of country. It is interesting to ponder how something so ordinary, so often despised, is one of the ties that bind: a thousands-mile long dandelion chain!

  8. I love your straightforward images of the flower in three stages. You know it seems to me that I can always sense your brain at work on your blog – not always the case on some others!
    I think there’s a very similar flower up here, on the dry side of the mountains (eastern WA/OR). I will have to see…ha! A Field Guide to Pacific States Wildflowers has a flower of the same name – False dandelion. Wouldn’t you know it? (I like your discussion with Steve above). Hypochoeris radicata – looks like it’s pretty similar but I bet it’s a little smaller and less showy than yours.

    1. I looked it up on the BONAP site, and there was the dreaded “pink for noxious” designation overspreading Washington. It seems to have come from Morocco, or the Mediterranean, but I thought you’d be interested in this: ” H. radicata readily invades freshly disturbed environments, such as Mount St. Helens following its 1980 eruption (Schoenfelder et al., 2010).” I’m not sure if that’s a negative, a positive, or both, but dandelions on Mt. St. Helens would be a sight to see.

      1. :-) Like I just said on the cemete/ary post, sharp eyes! You’re too much. No way did I see that with the cactus.

        As for where that avatar came from, I’ve always been interested in reflection, refraction and shadows. I put my hand down that way on the surface of a goldfish pool somewhere and photographed it. It was bright that day, and so cool to see the difference in the fish under the shadow of my hand vs the fish under the brightly reflective water surface. Only later did I realize what a nice graphic representation of a human hand it was, all the more because of the way the fish make it interactive. A lucky photograph but you DO get lucky when you play around enough, right?

        1. As the old saying has it, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Especially with macro photography, I’m often astounded by what I find once I get home. Spiders living in thistle silk, baby ducks where I thought there were only reeds, etc.

          And yes, water’s a wonderful medium. Just today I spent a few minutes watching about a four foot gar hang just below the surface at the marina. Only its tail and another small fin moved. Otherwise, it was perfectly still. I waited to see what would happen if another fish came by, but there wasn’t another fish, and I went back to work.

  9. We have one of these, the seedhead on our table right now. The subdivision people chopped up all flowers and grass along the paths, and we gathered up as much as we could. Are any parts of these edible like the common dandelion?

    1. I’ve looked, and I can’t find any indication that these are as palatable as a true dandelion. It would take someone with more knowledge than me to say for sure, but I’d leave them alone. This fellow suggests they’re edible, but not particularly tasty or nutritious.

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