Returning the Dandelion to its Proper Place in the Ecosystem as a Source of Wisdom


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“And the dandelion does not stop growing, because it is told it is a weed. The dandelion does not care what others see. It says, “One day, they’ll be making wishes upon me.”

~B. Atkinson

When I was in elementary school, I used to pick dandelions for my mom on my way home from school.

I loved those little beautiful flowers, all bunched up together in my small hands.

My mom would pull down a drinking glass, fill it with water, set the dandelions carefully inside, and proudly display them on the windowsill over the kitchen sink.

One day, I heard the news: dandelions are not flowers. They are weeds.

I couldn’t believe it. Why? They weren’t hurting anyone. They were such sweet little things.

All this time I’d been picking them and giving them as gifts to my mother, and no one told me. I felt betrayed and lied to: “All this time, and no one told me dandelions are only weeds. What else are grown-ups lying to me about?”

For many years after this, I, too, declared dandelions a weed and gave them no love or attention. In my mind, dandelions were associated with my naivety and the way the world lies to us. I didn’t want to be considered naïve. I didn’t like being lied to.

Until one day, I realized that the dandelion and I had something in common: we both felt excluded. Neither of us, because of our constitution, got to sit in a vase with the lilies and roses. Instead, we were rooted out, our particular flavor of wisdom passed over. We’ve both had to learn how to offer it, anyway.

The dandelion, like so many humans, has been misunderstood, mischaracterized, and underappreciated for the wisdom it holds.

It’s time to remember what the dandelion is here to teach us.

  • The dandelion teaches us about transformation as well as any caterpillar.
  • They teach us how to give ourselves—our scent, our gifts, our presence—even when we’re not appreciated.
  • They teach us how to survive in even the cruelest environments. Sidewalk cracks aren’t exactly hospitable to life.
  • Their roots run deep, finding sustenance deep in the earth. They show us how we can do this, too.
  • When it arrives in spring, the dandelion reminds us of the possibility of a new beginning and a fresh start.
  • The dandelion is associated with the planet Jupiter, and Jupiter is associated with abundance and wealth.
  • The dandelion tells us to keep blooming even if we don’t get to hang with the roses.

Just as the ant can be as powerful an animal totem as a lion or a bear, the dandelion can be as powerful a carrier of wisdom as any rose. It is just as potent, just as rich.

For me personally, the dandelion does remind me of my naivete, but it also stands for my lost childhood innocence that I can now reclaim.

It does harken back to those childhood feelings of betrayal, but it also reminds me I am empowered to decide for myself what is a weed and what is a flower. Preferably, I won’t use those two labels as differentiators for any plant (but then there’s crabgrass, though, so… we’ll see.)

I want to remove the label “weed” from the dandelion and return it to its rightful place in the ecosystem. I want to support its right to live and share their message and be who they are.

I see loving the dandelion again as an act of subtle activism about reclaiming wisdom from all the rocks, trees, mosses, insects, plants, and animals.

As I help return the dandelion to its place in the circle, I am also encouraging all of us to take back our rightful place in the ecosystem of humanity. Those of us who have been called weeds, even by ourselves, have magic to share, and we cannot let a little thing like a label stop us from doing it. It doesn’t stop the dandelion.

Because what is one person’s vase filled with a dozen roses is another’s drinking glass filled with dandelions that were plucked by a child’s loving hands.

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