There are some Dandelion look alikes to look out for when you’re foraging for Dandelion. For example, there’s Wild Lettuce, Hawkbit, and several Cat’s Ears species. It’s really important to know you’re foraging for the right plants, and to know what’s the difference between Dandelion and Wild Lettuce. Let’s compare Wild Lettuce vs Dandelion!
Taraxacum officinale –
Dandelion is a perennial plant with bright green leaves to 30cm long. The name “Dandelion” comes from the French “dent de lion”, meaning lion’s tooth. This name refers to the ‘teeth’ on Dandelions’ leaves. They’re not sharp, but they are indented, jagged edges.
Taraxacum comes from the Greek taraxos (disorder) and akos (remedy). It may also come from the Persian “tark hashgun”, meaning Wild Endive. The name ‘officinale’ indicates that Dandelion was officially listed as a medicinal herb. It was listed in the US National Formulary until 1965, and dried Dandelion root is listed in the US Pharmacopeia.
Dandelion Flowers and Seeds
Flowers stems are up to 30cm tall. One of Dandelion’s most identifiable features is that it has only ONE yellow daisy flower per stem.
Flowers mature into a puffball seed head. The seed head is well-known for a lot of fun – blowing the seeds! Dandelion flowers throughout the year, almost continuously. Most profuse flowering occurs in May and June.
The seeds are like little fluffy parachutes, easily carried by the wind. This is how Dandelion propagates in nature.
You can propagate them the same way in the garden! Grab a puffball seed head, take it to your garden, and blow. The Dandelion seeds will sprout where they see fit, growing beautiful, strong plants.
Dandelion has a thick tap root that is edible. The flower stem exudes a milky juice when it’s picked and this juice turns brown on your skin. The brown stain is difficult to remove.
Dandelion flowers are very responsive to weather conditions. On a nice sunny day, the flower will be fully outstretched. However, on a rainy day, the whole flower closes up. It performs the same action for night time.
Eating Dandelion for Humans and Animals
Dandelions are valuable food for humans animals. Many birds love Dandelion seeds, and pigs and goats will happily forage on it. Sheep and cattle might not like it very much, nor do horses. Rabbits love to eat Dandelion though, and it’s well-worth growing it for feeding your rabbits.
Humans can add young leaves (mature leaves are very bitter) to salads and juices. Use Dandelion like lettuce on a sandwich, in stews, curries, and stir-fries. Dandelion seeds can be used for the same purposes. Young leaves taste similar to endive or spinach and can be used in the same way.
Dandelion beer is a fermented drink, common in many parts of the USA and Canada. Dandelion wine is made from the flowers.
Dandelion roots are roasted as an alternative to coffee. I love a tea called ‘Dandy Chai’ which is a spiced Dandelion-root tea. Dandelion coffee is completely caffeine free and has many health benefits, including promoting healthy liver, kidney, and bowel.
Dandelion Identifiable Features:
- One flower per stem
- Jagged, pointed leaves
- Hollow stems
- No hairs
- Flowers continuously, but most profusely in May and June
Dandelion Other names
Lion’s Tooth, Royal Herb, Piss-in-bed, Puff Ball, Wild Endive, Pissabed, Irish Daisy, Blow Ball, Bitterwort, Clock Flower, Cankerwort.
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Wild Lettuce Identification
Lactuca virosa –
Wild Lettuce is a biennial (grows for 2 years) up to 6 ft tall. The Latin name “virosa” means “unpleasantly strong taste or smell” or “toxic” and “lactuca” is “milky extract”.
I’m sure this plant sounds very attractive by now: toxic milky extract with unpleasantly strong taste or smell!
Wild Lettuce has a brown tap root with a smooth, pale green stem. This stem sometimes has purple spots. The plant has some prickles on the lower parts. The broad, oval leaves have jagged edges. Wild Lettuce flowers look like Dandelion flowers.
It’s best known for its slightly narcotic and pain relieving properties, although all lettuces contain some of these narcotic properties to some degree. Wild Lettuce has the most of all and is often made into a skin lotion for irritation, sun burn, or redness.
These properties are found in the milky juice that flows freely from the whole plant when you cut it or it is wounded. The sap tastes bitter (Bitter Lettuce!) and smells like medicine. When this milky sap dries it hardens and turns brown. This dried, hardened sap is known as lactucarium.
The drug resembles a feeble opium without its tendency to upset the digestive system. It is used to a small extent as a sedative and narcotic.
Dissolved in wine it is said to be a good anodyne.
Dr. Collins stated that twenty-three out of twenty-four cases of dropsy were cured by taking doses of 18 grains to 3 drachms of extract in twenty-four hours. It is used in Germany in this complaint, but combined with more active drugs. It is said to be also a mild diaphoretic and diuretic, easing colic, inducing sleep and allaying cough. —https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/l/lettuc17.html
Wild Lettuce Other Names
Lactucarium, Opium Lettuce, Strong Scented Lettuce, Bitter Lettuce, Green Endive, Poisonous Lettuce, Tall Lettuce, Great Lettuce
Wild Lettuce vs Dandelion Comparison
|Flower per stem||One flower per stem||Multiple flowers per stem|
|Bloom time||Flowers continuously, but most profusely in May and June||Flowers July-August|
|Parts used||All parts are used||Lactuarium (dried sap) and leaves are used|
- How can I use Herbs in My Daily Life – Isabell Shipard
- Dandelion seeds on Amazon
- Wild Lettuce seeds on Amazon