Dandelions and Other Foreigners

A friend said to Hodja Nasruddin, “Look at all these dandelions!  I’ve tried pulling them, poisoning them, starving them, digging them out by the root.  Nothing works.  I am at my wit’s end!”

“That’s a shame,” said the Hodja. “They are not a problem for me.”

“Really?  Please tell me your secret, my friend!”

“It is very simple,” said Nasruddin.  “I have learned to love them.”

Dandelions are native to Eurasia, but have traveled all over this world.   In France they were called “Dent de Lion,” or “Lion’s Tooth,” because of their toothed leaves. In England they were, “Piss-a-Beds,” for their diuretic properties.  In Germany, Russia, and Italy they are “blowing flowers.”  In Catalan, Poland, Denmark, and Lithuania they are  “milk flowers,”  “milkpots,” and “sow’s milk,” after the flower stem’s milky sap.  In Finland, Estonia, and Croatia, they are “butter flowers.”  In China, they are “flower that grows in public spaces by the riverside,”  while in Portugal, they are called, “your dad is bald,” after a game the children play with them.

A weed is  a weed only if it is unwanted.  These immigrants have been used by humans for food, winemaking, herbs, and medicine for all of our recorded history.  Their roots are roasted for a chicory-like hot drink.  They are brimming with vitamins, and they enrich the soil.

They were only introduced to North America by the first European settlers.  Foreign? Yes. But think of all the good things they have brought with them.  Think of summertime without their cheerful faces.  Most of all, think of all the wishes that have come true since they have found a home here.

Click here for other interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual Point of View

Here is a link to check out other interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign.

All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck.



  1. Nice interpretation of the theme. So many weeds are pretty!
    We call them visitors!

    1. Hi Lisa,
      I like that. “Visitors” sounds so much more friendly! Thanks for the visit!

  2. I love a lawn full of yellow. The only problem being they evolve into bald daddies !

  3. scillagrace says:

    Sweet and informative…thanks for the research!

    1. My pleasure. I appreciate your stopping by, Scilla.

  4. I love them, as well. Great way to capture the many wishes!

  5. I just love that quote and I’ve always thought them a little fey as well

    1. There has always been something a bit magical about them for me too. Thanks for the visit, and for taking the time to comment.

  6. I love them . . . and clover. The lawn service compromised with me (and my neighbors) and let them grow in my back yard. Bunnies are safer there anyway, away from the street.

    1. Nice, Mary. I like to picture the bunnies feasting and resting in your backyard! So glad to hear from you.

  7. Haven’t seen one for years – used to love blowing them as a child 🙂

    1. You haven’t seen one for years? Oh, my goodness, where do you live? I must confess that I dig them out of my lawn, and enjoy them, like the Chinese, in the public spaces by the rivers, etc.

      1. I’m in the inner city Naomi…Sydney, Australia..no lawn, a courtyard and some pots 🙂

  8. writecrites says:

    I used to love blowing them as a child, too. None here in Hawaii, though.

  9. No dandelions in Hawaii! Oh, but you have so many other beautiful flowers. Thank you for stopping by, and for taking the time to comment!

  10. Jamie Dedes says:

    Perfectly wonderful post. Agree with the point made. Love dandelions.

    1. Thank you, Jamie. I really appreciate that.

  11. ShimonZ says:

    I love them. Never did understand the concept of weed… except that they’re unwanted… sometimes it’s so hard to get rid of what’s unwanted…

    1. Hi Shimon,
      Dandelions keep us on our toes and make us think about these things. Thanks for stopping by.

  12. adinparadise says:

    Lovely post, Naomi. I never could understand why they should be classed as weeds, when they are so pretty. 🙂

    1. I suppose it is a case of “moderation is a good thing” and “everything in its place.” I’m sure my neighbors cringed and feared for their lawns when, as a child, I would make wishes on a dandelion and send its little parachutes out into the world.

      1. adinparadise says:

        Hehehe. That was one of my favourite pastimes too. Lovely memories, Naomi. 🙂

  13. pattisj says:

    Why am I surprised these grow all over the world? Children have been blowing the seeds since the first one appeared, I imagine. This was a creative use of the topic, and a lovely surprise.

    1. THank you, Patti. I couldn’t even begin to tell you all the places and place names for this little flower. It really gets around! And from what I could tell, kids everywhere have their games. Wishing and blowing. Do you remember as a kid, holding one up to a friend’s chin and asking, “Do you like butter?” If yellow was reflected upon their skin, that was a sure sign that they did. Of course, it always was. But, then, who doesn’t like butter?

  14. Marianne says:

    We get some wonderful weeds in southern Spain – I call them wild flowers 🙂 I particularly like dandelion clocks for blowing wishes. Great post, Naomi!

    1. Thank you, Marianne! It’s all in how you look at it!

  15. Weeds will win eventually and create their own beauty, nature doesn’t categorise, she works in harmony and weeds are almost like natures way of policing over ambitious human activity.

    I love how ruins get covered in plants and hide their degradation as the bio-degrading process takes place.

    1. Me too, Claire. We were just in Turkey, and it was hot and dry. It was very moving to me to look down at the most barren and unfriendly environment, mostly rocks and the remains of a Roman settlement, and see a dandelion growing up out of the ruins. The marvelous tenacity of life!

  16. Madhu says:

    Wonderful interpretation Naomi! And your photos are so precious 🙂

    1. Hi Madhu, thank you so much!

  17. Roxie says:

    ah perspective! invaluable, wonderful post! 🙂

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Roxie! I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  18. Carol says:

    As I have gotten older and my energy level has reduced, I have learned to be more tolerant of growing things that I previously abhorred. There is a beauty to those yellow spots of sunshine popping up in the green green grass. And there are many other, much more important things, to fret about. Now, if only I could convince husband. . . .

    1. That is so wise, Carol. “There are many other, much more important things to fret about…” Sometimes I have to stop and take a minute to remember to keep my priorities straight.

      Thanks for the visit, and your very thoughtful comments.

  19. Nice weeds and great story!

    1. Thank you for stopping by!

  20. sueannm66 says:

    Love the dandelions and love that you found out all the different names from l over the world. As kids we played game with them to see what the time is according to when you had blown it all away.

    1. Hi Sue Ann,
      I never learned that game. We made wishes, and held them up to our friends’ chins to see if they liked butter. Thanks for stopping in, and taking the time to share your story!

  21. I love them and I think they are amazing, as your photos are too!!

    1. Hi Pablo, thanks so much for your kind words!

  22. Neat! I always enjoy the little flowers that most consider weeds. It’s funny how happy people are to pay $9.99 for flower’s that the grocery store declares suitable, but they pay no attention to what are, in my opinion anyway, much more delicate and beautiful little flowers underfoot every day.

    1. Hi Nick,
      Thanks for your visit. I really appreciate your stopping by, and sharing your thoughts.

  23. Beautiful photos and love the dandelion wine!

  24. frizztext says:

    I’ve told Hodja Nasruddin’s stories often to children in school …

    1. Hi Frizz,
      I really enjoy the Hodja’s stories. Are you a teacher or do you visit schools to sing and tell stories? Either way, those kids are lucky!

  25. I love wildflowers and plant a packet of mixed seeds every year on the rockery outside my kitchen window. One of my neighbours gave over their whole front garden this year to a wondrous display of dandelions, cornflowers, and poppies. It was breathtaking.

    Isn’t it great how some things live on from one generation to the next? Telling the time with dandelion clocks is on a par with playing Pooh sticks.

    1. I’m all smiles after reading this message, Sarah, from imagining a yard full of dandelions and poppies to remembering all the games of Pooh Sticks I played with my kids!

  26. Reblogged this on INTO THE BARDO and commented:
    A dear lesson offered in story and photograph by the talented writer/blogger/world traveler, Naomi Baltuck, whose daughter is attending college just down the road from us. The link will take you to her blog to see the whole piece. Naomi is the author of a novel “The Keeper of the Crystal Spring,” which is available in English, German, Spanish and Italian. Her anthology of storytelling , “Apples From Heaven,” is an award winning collection. Jamie Dedes

  27. I love how you incorporate dandelions and life in general . Of Valuing things and people for their goodness. ” But think of all the good things they have brought with them. “But think of all the good things they have brought with them. Think of summertime without their cheerful faces. Most of all, think of all the wishes that have come true since they have found a home here.” Beautiful words and images. Have a great day full of sunshine.

    1. Dear Island Traveler,
      Thank you for all the good energy you bring with you! It is always a pleasure to hear from you!

  28. Letto con molto piacere! Yes, these little grass which can be found everywhere is delicious to eat too.
    Take the leaves (before blooming) and cut them into one inch, oil & wine-vinegger a little salt and pepper… served with boiled eggs… and freshly made dark bread… My kids and huband love it!
    From now on, I’ll follow your dailywriting…
    serenity :-)claudine

    PS. a couple of years ago I wrote a novel with a similar title “Il Cristallo della Pace” (“The Crysta of Peacel”) but I didn’t get the chance to translate it in english!

    1. Hello, Claudine,
      Thank you for visiting my blog. I appreciate having the recipe for boiled dandelions, and will try it out next springtime, when they start popping up in my lawn.

      Thank you for following my blog. I enjoyed looking at yours, with your lovely kids, and your interesting travels. I look forward to following yours.

      Congratulations on the success of your novels. I wish I could read them in English, but perhaps one day there will be a translation, and then I will.

      1. Dear Naomi… the “dente di leone” (dandelions) are eaten raw, together with boiled and sliced eggs.
        The taste is somehow bitter but is wonderful & healthy for our metabolism (we follow the traditional chinese medicine with herbals product and acupuncture).
        And for what matters my novels 😉 I have translated the last one which will be published next spring… but I need somebody for the editing (and this is the havy duty)!
        Lovely sunday :-)claudine

        here you see an extract from the Novel:

  29. sue says:

    I adore dandelions. I’m thinking of painting one on my bathroom wall. if I were ever to get a tattoo, (which is 99% improbable) it would be of a dandelion and a lightning bug 🙂

    1. Hi Sue,
      That’s so funny! The logo of my Uncle’s 78th Lightning Division was a firefly named Sparky, which I only know because of the matchbook he sent home to his parents from boot camp. If you do paint a dandelion on your bathroom wall, I want to see it!

      Thanks for the visit. It is always so nice to hear from you. I hope to see you soon!

  30. Kourtney Heintz says:

    You’ve given me a whole new respect for dandelions. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Kourtney!

  31. Jessica says:

    “A weed is only a weed if it is unwanted..” I love this post, Naomi. And I love the overarching theme of acceptance.

    1. Dear Jessica,
      You are very perceptive! Thank you so much for stopping by, taking the time to comment, and sharing your insight. Warmly, Naomi

  32. t2van says:

    I love everything about dandelions. I love their spots of sunshine…I love eating their tender leaves…drinking dandelion tea….I love stroking the young softness of the new flowers….and the promise of wishes coming true. I especially love imagining them growing amongst the cracks in the concrete across the world.
    Thank you for bringing me a bouquet of sunshine on this rainy, grey day. Sometimes we read the posts not on the day they are written, but on the day we are meant to receive them.


  33. Ingrid says:

    Dear Naomi, there is a wonderful story about dandelions in ROBERT FULGHAM´S BOOK: All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten. Ever since I read that I always look forward to spring and every single flower I see….
    Lots of love and thanks for your lovely post!!!!!

    1. Hi Ingrid,

      I will look up his book. I remember hearing him speak once, twenty plus years ago at a storytelling conference, and I really enjoyed him. I appreciate your visit, and taking the time to comment. You brought a smile to my face on a gray Seattle day!

  34. eof737 says:

    What a wonderful post in defense of the dandelion… makes great dietary teas too. 😉

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      That I didn’t know! Have you tasted the tea? Do you just boil the leaves?
      Thank you for your visit. I will have to try that tea!

  35. smilingtoad says:

    Oh this reminds me so of how I miss these “blowing flowers”! I have lived in Florida for some 6 years now, and have perhaps seen about 4 dandelions in that time. Fireflies are another elusive thing here, with a very short season, and one has to know where to go to see them, such as in remote woods. But how I do love these flowers. What a grand tribute to them, and absolutely fascinating information about them. I am still under their influence with my dandelion root tea! Gorgeous post, and I must say I really dig that hat.

    1. Fedorable! That’s my daughter, Bea, who pops up in many of my posts. I miss fireflies here in the Northwest. We used to catch as many as we could, put them in paper cups to make lanterns to light up our tent, and then release them at bedtime.

      1. smilingtoad says:

        Oh I love that!! Thank you for sharing that with me! I never tried that, but I did do another thing involving insects and tents- I caught about 40-50 monarch butterflies and a few swallowtails, had them flutter all around us in the tent, and then released them. I must say, that was kind of a thrill. Oh yes, very fedorable, indeed! I collect those very hats meself, I imagine I’m some sort of micro Sinatra. I must say, she looks absolutely smashing!

    2. Oh, my! This sure made me laugh. I can just picture the inside of that tent!
      Yes, Bea is a hat person too. She became known for it at high school. One day, for some reason, she went to school hatless, and some dear sweet freshman Bea didn’t even know seemed genuinely disturbed, and asked, “Where’s your hat?”

      1. smilingtoad says:

        Haha I LOVE that! I cheer for her! I was very serious about my hats. If anyone tried to pull my hat off, they were going to suffer severe consequences. Tragically, we were not allowed to wear hats in high-school, so I got very creative with the hairdo and became known throughout the county for it- I ran meets with this hairdo, as well. Babs with the Nobs I was called. Babs because I am a slight babbler if you have not noticed this, and nobs for the fact that my hair did have 8 nobs with spiky fringe. It looked fantastic with clear glasses. I once went to school without the “nobs” and students were disturbed indeed.

        Oh yes, it was fantastic! I once had a pet butterfly, but that really is another story I should save for another time ha ha. I’ve already rambled on far too long here! Cheers,

        Autumn Jade

      2. Dear Autumn Jade,
        Hats were not allowed at Bea’s school, but she sort of tested the waters, and soon knew which teachers would not object, and in which classrooms she would have to take her hat off in. Your hairdo was a very creative solution to a no hat rule! I’d love to see a photo!

      3. smilingtoad says:

        I suspected as such CHEERS indeed for Bea!!!! She is GROOVY!! I am quite proud of her. Spirited, with a challenging spirit. If there is a problem, there is always a solution, I imagine is quite her attitude indeed. Brilliant! I admit I was a bit that way meself. I remember there used to be a “channel one” requirement to watch. I found the thing abominably annoying and demeaning. Teachers let me do homework and listen to music whilst the thing played. There is indeed always a solution. Especially if you are kind and considerate, with an open mind.

        You have inspired me, I shall have to do a wee post devoted to the old ‘do, with a few photos, haha.

      4. I will look forward to that!

  36. restlessjo says:

    I’ll never speak ill of a dandelion ever again! Thanks for coming to their defence so nobly, Naomi.

    1. Dear Jo,
      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for leaving a comment that made me smile!

  37. TBM says:

    I’ve always like them and think they add color. Then again, I don’t own a house so I don’t have to deal with them. If I did, I think I would leave them

  38. Reblogged this on Writing Between the Lines and commented:

    For my new friends and followers, the wisdom of Nasruddin will make you smile.

  39. restlessjo says:

    “Your Dad is bald” is SUCH a Portuguese response, Naomi 🙂

    1. Dear Jo,
      That is so funny! I appreciate your stopping by, and making me smile.

  40. It is so nice to be back in touch. I love all that I learned today about the dandelion. I never thought them ugly. Mummy did however, and upon arriving home from grade school we were handed a bushel basket. We were very young. We were meant to pick the dandelion heads. A bushel equaled a nickle. Today, I love the greens.

    1. Dear Liz,
      Lovely to hear from you, and yes, it is great to be back in touch! I love your story–thanks so much for sharing it. A nickel a bushel for a head of dandelions!

  41. Thanks for your illustrated appreciation of this much-maligned foreigner. I did a column on dandelions a few years ago for the Environmentor enewsletter http://www.franstallings.com/Environmentor/Dandelions
    It pairs a recent Native American tale with some science about them. You might be especially intrigued to learn that they don’t need fertilization to produce seeds!
    But there are other species, generally smaller and more shy: a lemon-yellow type in Japan, and a Russian variety whose roots produce so much latex that there are experiments afoot to see if they can replace allergenic tree rubber or petroleum-derived artificial rubber.

    1. Hi Fran,
      Thank you for sharing the link to your article on my blog. I loved learning a lot more about dandelions, and heard a story that is new to me. So good to hear from you.

  42. Who knew the humble dandelion has such stories to tell.
    I hear other weeds in Italy are so colourful and attractive, they are as appreciated as flowers from a garden.

    Thanks for this post, Naomi. I had no idea.

    1. Dear Tess,
      Thank you for the visit, and for taking the time to comment. I would love to go see some Italian weeds (or wildflowers, depending upon how you view them)!

  43. Elyse says:

    A captan e is often the best answer!

    1. I accept and embrace that philosophy, especially when there is no other choice.

  44. pattisj says:

    When nothing else blooms, dandelions are not deterred from showing their radiant faces. Blowing the seeds is one of the most fun things of childhood. I’m not surprised they’ve spread all over the world–probably on their own!

    1. And with a little help from their friends. I remember blowing on the dandelion puffers and making wishes–which I’m sure our neighbors wished we wouldn’t do!

  45. Roy McCarthy says:

    Great post Naomi – never realised dandlions were so universal or, indeed, useful. When I was a child if the yellow flower reflected off one’s chin you liked butter. Dent-de-Lion – so much information in such a short piece!

    1. Hi Roy,
      We also used to hold the dandelion to our friends’ chins to determine whether they liked butter. The pollen would rub off, and after a while, we were all running around with yellow chins.

  46. likeitiz says:

    They make great salad too!

    1. I would love to learn how to make salad from dandelions. I wouldn’t be sure which part to eat, or when. When I was a kid I ate the bitter tops off my radishes, confusing it with my little row of spinach. I so appreciate your visit, and taking the time to comment.

  47. Dorota says:

    Short and sweet….and so meaningful. Immigrants are like dandelions. You can find reasons to love them instead of treating them like weeds.

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