The dandelion is a dandy

FRONTLINES: What Christians can learn from a tenacious plant

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Photo: Getty Images, RomeoLu

Between the Aspen seed cotton and the dandelion parachute seed fuzz, it was the cotton-fuzziest spring in many years. The Aspen cotton covered the ground in places like snow.  As I cut hay, a cloud of dandelion fuzz followed me down the field, plugging the tractor radiator and air cleaner, tickling my nose.

Following “the cloud” gave me plenty of time to wonder why we have to put up with dandelions. Why would the Creator waste his time designing a seed that propagates itself so easily on a plant that nobody wants? If we want a good crop of alfalfa, we must work the soil, buy genetically designed (and expensive) seed, plant and fertilize and then hope the bugs and severe winter weather don’t kill it. And the dandelions? Well, they just appear, and it seems nothing can destroy them.

However, the dandelion, beside its unique seed design, has other attributes that are often overlooked. As a salad green, dandelion leaves contain nine times more vitamin C than lettuce, three times more anemia-preventing iron than spinach and 42 times more vitamin A than iceberg lettuce.

At one time, the United States imported up to 50 tons of dandelion root a year that was used in a tonic for the liver. Dandelion roots also contain a liquid latex. Researchers have experimented with a Russian variety to produce rubber. Perhaps more importantly, the dandelion flowers are easily picked by children as a gift for mothers and grandmothers, and grandpas can show grandkids how to make a chain out of the dandelions’ hollow stems.

While I don’t plan to quit raising alfalfa in favor of dandelions quite yet, there must be a good purpose for the dandelion. The Bible tells us in I Cor. 1:27-29, “But God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”

While society contains some “alfalfa” types, people highly gifted and well-cultivated, most of us are more like the dandelions—just ordinary people. And like the dandelion, God designs all of us with unique characteristics of great value. While great deeds are noteworthy, life benefits the most from every day, God-designed seeds of kindness—a smile, word of affirmation, a helping hand. The common, ordinary gifts people give that, like dandelion seeds, are freely born on the breeze of life, filling the world, reproducing generation after generation.

The dandelion doesn’t seem to care that it’s not a rose or an orchid. It is eager to show its yellow flower, the beauty God designed for it to display for all the world to see. We should also be eager to share what God has given us. In the field where alfalfa is the favored crop, the dandelion is there to fill in when the alfalfa begins to fail and thin out. Can we be willing to fill in when we are needed?

Gardeners and lawn keepers will hoe, chop, dig and spray, only to find the dandelion back again. We can copy the dandelion’s tenacity to spring back when someone tries to destroy us. Genesis 1:31: “And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

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