ORRIN MORRIS: Though beautiful, dwarf dandelion can be a scourge for gardeners, farmers

DWARF DANDELIONS Krigia virginica and K. caespitosa

DWARF DANDELIONS Krigia virginica and K. caespitosa

Psalm 115:13-14 says, “He will bless those who fear the Lord, the small together with the great. May the Lord give you increase, you and your children.”

I remember as a small child the fascination I had with dandelions. They were treasures of golden yellow that sprung from the ground as soon as it dried from the spring thaw. (My childhood was spent in Nebraska.)

Soon, however, I learned that my fascination was misdirected. The beauty of the bloom was always appreciated, but the plant was a weed that multiplied relentlessly, causing problems for gardeners, farmers and ranchers.


Krigia virginica and K. caespitosa

To study the Virginia species (virginica) we return to the granite outcrops of this area. As the Psalmist notes that God blesses both the small and the great, we will examine two miniature versions of the more common dandelion.

The weedy dwarf dandelion (K. caespitosa), not pictured, is similar to the Virginia dwarf dandelion, but it is a distinct species. At first glance they look the same, but location is an important clue. The Virginia dwarf dandelion, pictured, thrives in hostile environs, such as on and around our granite outcroppings and rocky roadsides. The weedy dwarf dandelion needs more moderate conditions.

The leaves are a second clue to distinguish between the two. Both have small upright leaves, but the weedy dwarf dandelion leaves are hairy and more likely to be divided than those of the Virginia dwarf dandelion.

Like all other dandelions, the Virginia dwarf dandelion’s flower is yellow, but it has fewer petals than the others. The plant may stand only 4 inches tall or grow to as high as 16 inches. The 5/8-inch flower appears atop a single leafless stem. The bloom of the weedy dwarf dandelion is even smaller, but has more petals.

Both dwarf dandelions have a long growing season that may run from May to September when circumstances are right.

I’m grateful that while I was a small child, my parents let me play with the dandelions. There were only two special instructions: pull the bloom as soon as it began to wilt and if I saw one in the puffball stage, put it in the garbage. Sorry, Mom, I did blow them, sometimes.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.