Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mutant dandelions

Back in April, my friend Franck noticed some strange dandelions while on his lunch hour in downtown Washington, D.C., and took the pictures above. Multiple flower heads were growing on a single hollow ribbon-like stalk. He found some possible explanations on the Cabinet of Curiosities blog: a genetic mutation, a sub-lethal dose of herbicide, or damage by a soil bacterium or by an insect during the earliest stages of development. Except to note that dandelions are underappreciated for their medical and culinary uses, there is not much weird news about the flower often considered a weed. I did find instructions for making dandelion coffee; an account of the discovery of the world's longest dandelion, measured at 42"; and the genetic modification of the dandelion to make it easier to harvest the latex that they produce, for use in rubber gloves, car tires, and future pharmaceuticals. One of my favorite books is Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury and I discuss my favorite passage from it in this post. Franck wonders if the thick-stemmed dandelions make better wine. I'm not sure about that, but do have a family heirloom to share, courtesy of my sister: the handwritten recipe for dandelion wine that my maternal grandmother Winifred Dunne (d. 1962) was known for.

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