Wind, cold, damp and even sleet and ice made spring seem just a rumour. Brown grass, bare trees, and lots of mud. The only things growing were the potholes.
Then a few days of sunshine, temperatures that didn’t require a coat and, presto, you look out one morning and realize, somewhat stunned, that the world has turned green.
Green and yellow. Almost before blades of grass can rise, the dandelions rush to bloom. Bloom in every possible place as fast as they can, as though aware their only chance for reproduction is to beat the arrival of the lawn mowers and the weed exterminators.
Like most of us here, dandelions are immigrants, likely arriving with the first sack of grain, or stuck to the boots of Samuel de Champlain. They’ve adapted so well the whole continent is their playground. And defied every attempt to put them down. Dandelions are the earliest of spring flowers, even beating out forsythia and lilacs. They provide swathes of enthusiastic yellow on our reviving lawns and sweeps of gold out in the pastures. They provide the first food for famished bees coming out of hibernation. They can fill our salad bowls with nutrient laden greens.
Their name is from the French dent-de-lion or tooth of the lion as their jagged leaves suggest. The French also call them pis-en-lit or wet the bed, a testament of the plant’s use as a diuretic.
I feel bad cutting down their eager yellow heads but the grass must be cut before it’s too thick for the mower. I am angrily pursued by the bumblebee that guards bee the nest under my stairs. It thinks I’m ruining the buffet after a long lean winter and deserve the business end of a stinger. If I were urban, guilt would set in. Here, I point to the acres of pasture carpeted in yellow and tell the bee to go feast elsewhere. Yellow dinners await as far as the eye can see.
Bright blooms swiftly become ghost globes of dandelion seeds, each with its own little parachute, each waiting to sail on the wind to some new home. They’ve beaten the cattle who will soon be along to munch and trample. They will blithely take any hostility now as they make way for the main act when it comes to weeds, the lawless, unkillable thistles which will soon be four feet high and snatching as much territory as they can, fierce spines keeping the cattle away.
How joyfully I’d trade no thistles for an endless dandelion season.