- Types of Dandelions
- Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
- Russian Dandelion (Taraxacum Kok-saghyz)
- Korean Dandelion (Taraxacum Platycarpum)
- Japanese Dandelion (Taraxacum Japonicum)
- California Dandelion (Taraxacum Californicum)
- Red Seeded Dandelion (Taraxacum Erythrospermum)
- Horned Dandelion (Taraxacum Ceratophorum)
- Pink Dandelion (Taraxacum Pseudoroseum)
- Dandelion Look-Alikes
Did you know that there are over 250 types of dandelions? The common dandelion is probably the one that you know best. It may grow wild in your lawn, since it can withstand less than ideal conditions and is generally considered a weed. This perennial herb is edible and dandelion has medicinal benefits.
Leaves are not toxic when consumed in normal amounts. However, this plant is rich in oxalates which can cause harm in large quantities. Children may become ill after eating dandelion stems since they contain a milky latex. Most types of dandelions have deeply serrated leaves which give the plant its name since “dandelion” comes from the French word “dent-de-lion” which means lion’s tooth. Leaves can be harvested at any time, although they are more tender early in the spring. Big leaves with fewer lobes are the tastiest.
Many people like to forage these plants so it is important to be able to recognize the different types of dandelions. It is possible to grow dandelion year-round in warmer climates. Those that live in places with seasons can find them more frequently in spring and fall. Almost all types of dandelions can grow everywhere, from gardens to meadows and pastures. They prefer shaded areas, but can thrive in sunny locations.
Most types of dandelions produce yellow flowers with green leaves. Although some species produce pink, white, purple, maroon and peach flowers. These flowers produce nectar which is needed by bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Dandelion’s seed head is the familiar white puff that is often picked to make a wish. Harvest flowers late in the morning when the blooms are dry and open.
Types of Dandelions
Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
The common dandelion grows best in sunny areas that have little human interaction, which is why you see them in meadows. They prefer to grow very low to the ground, but they can reach up to 18 inches in height. Leaves are shaped like a spatula, with a toothy appearance. They are quite long and have a hairy appearance underneath. The middle part of the leaves is quite smooth and sometimes leaves can be smooth on both sides.
Like other types of dandelion, this plant is completely edible, except for the seeds which are brown, thin and oval shaped. It produces bright yellow flowers which turn into seed puffs. Leaves can be eaten as greens, but be careful since they are diuretic. Roots can be used as a coffee substitute, while wine can be made from the flowers. Buy common dandelion seeds here.
Russian Dandelion (Taraxacum Kok-saghyz)
Known as Kazakh dandelion and “rubber boot” because the Soviets were looking for a reliable source of rubber. Its root contains 15% latex making it a high-quality rubber substitute. This dandelion is native to Western China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kirghizia. It grows in meadows and mountain regions with neutral or acidic soil. Russian dandelion needs little shade or no shade between the months of May and June. Its leaves look quite similar to the common dandelion, although they are wider and have rounded ends. Russian dandelion produces yellow flowers that bloom from May to June. Seeds ripen in June and July.
Unlike other types of dandelions, this plant is not very edible. However, it can be converted into bioethanol with a fermentation process. Roots can be dried and roasted as a coffee substitute, while the leaves and roots can also be drunk as a tea.
Korean Dandelion (Taraxacum Platycarpum)
Although it is called the Korean dandelion, this plant can also be found in Japan and China. Like other types of dandelion, it can be found in cultivated areas and roadsides. Leaves are quite similar to the common dandelion with a toothy appearance. They measure between 6 to 8 inches in length and 1 to 1.5 inches in width. Korean dandelion grows between March and May.
This plant grows up to 12 inches in height with downy stalks that are topped with a flower head that has numerous small florets. Korean dandelion blooms in spring and sometimes late in fall. All parts of this plant are edible, both raw and cooked. Dried roots can be used as a coffee substitute, while the flowers and stems can be used in a tea.
Japanese Dandelion (Taraxacum Japonicum)
This species of dandelion can be found in Japan’s paddy fields and roadsides. It blooms early to late spring from March to May. Unlike other types of dandelion, this plant does not have a loop of downward facing leaves that surround the flower head. It produces a single yellow flower that doesn’t have as many florets as the common dandelion. Japanese dandelion can be used as a tea or coffee substitute.
California Dandelion (Taraxacum Californicum)
While most types of dandelions are widely spread, the California dandelion is an endangered species that is native to North America. As its name suggests, it grows in California year-round but goes dormant in the winter. It has thin leaves that have jagged ends and are shaped like a sword. Leaves have lobes towards the middle.
This species blooms from May to August with yellow or green and red-veined flower heads. It can be found in seeps and meadows. Just like other types of dandelion, it can be used in tea or as a coffee substitute.
Red Seeded Dandelion (Taraxacum Erythrospermum)
Unlike other types of dandelions, red seeded dandelions can be found all over the world. This plant grows in a wide range of places, from dry and rocky areas to soggy and marshy lands. It lives in yards, roadside or in undisturbed soil. Red seeded dandelion can live in both sunny and shaded areas.
Leaves grow between 2-10 inches long and 2 inches wide. They grow in a basal form with tapered sections that end with a slender tip that can be curved. Seeds are reddish-brown making them easy to recognize. This plant blooms between April and June. It is edible and can be beneficial for people that have liver and digestive problems since it is bitter. Use in a tea to help eyes and heart.
Horned Dandelion (Taraxacum Ceratophorum)
This species of dandelion can be found in Western America and Canada. It is also called alpine dandelion because it loves growing in alpine areas or high mountains. Leaves are wide and toothy with rounded tips that look like horns. This plant can grow one to ten stems. It has a large flowering head of yellow florets. It is difficult to identify since it goes through its lifecycle quickly.
Pink Dandelion (Taraxacum Pseudoroseum)
This pink dandelion is native to Central Asia, but can now be found all over the world. It likes to live around forest margins, roadside and in meadows. They are popular with gardeners since they are easy to grow and are a good choice for natural landscaping. Pink dandelion produces pretty pink flowers with an apricot colored center, blooming from May to October. These flowers attract pollinators and butterflies. They can grow in partial shade or full sun.
False Dandelion (Hypochaeris radicata)
False dandelion is also known as cat’s ear and flatweed. This perennial weed is often mistaken for dandelion. It is originally from Eurasia, but can be found in most parts of the world. False dandelion grows in all kinds of soil. It can be found in fields, grass lawns, by the road and in disturbed areas. It produces leaves from a rosette around a central taproot just like most types of dandelions. Its green, lobed leaves can grow up to 8 inches in length. This plant produces yellow flower heads that form seed puffs when they mature.
Desert Dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata)
Desert dandelion is quite similar to the common dandelion, but it has a slightly paler flower color. Its flower is bright red in the center, making it easier to identify. Unlike other types of dandelion, this plant grows in the Mojave, Sonoran and Great Basin deserts. It produces large carpets of flowers after heavy rains.
Sow Thistle (Sonchus spp.)
This plant is part of the thistle family so it matures with prickly spines. It does not have hollow stems like all types of dandelions. Leaves grow from the entire stalk with multiple flowers.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
Flowers are yellow like most types of dandelion, but it has broad or heart shaped leaves. This plant is part of the Daisy family and can cause cancer in rats.
Italian dandelion (Cichorium intybus)
Very similar to some types of dandelions, but it is actually a type of chicory. It is often used for culinary purposes since it adds a beautiful red color to salads and its leaves have a great flavor. It can also be used in soups or as a side dish. This plant is quite hardy and can tolerate cold weather. Buy Italian dandelion seeds here.