A Well Designed Weed

I am a fan of great design. When something has a beautiful aesthetic design that is also completely functional – for me that’s the pinnacle of design. I know that to most homeowners, this weed is the bane of their existence, requiring bags of chemicals and funny-looking tools to tame. I have come to appreciate their amazing design – to see that from not only follows function, but that functionality can be truly beautiful.

It begins like this…

I have always marveled at the intricate detail of it's flower's structure.

I have always marveled at the intricate detail of it’s flower’s structure. So much geometry.

…and transforms into this…

The symmetrical seed ball is also filled with structure and geometry,

The symmetrical seed ball is also filled with structure and geometry, a nearly perfect circle made mostly of air.

To really appreciate the beauty and the geometry of the dandelion, you must get closer…

As you get closer you can see the almost engineered structure that holds the whole seed system together.

As you get closer you can see the almost engineered structure that holds the whole seed system together. Dimples as perfectly spaced as any man-made golf ball.

As you get even closer the structure of the seeds themselves becomes much more intricate than you might imagine…

Here you can begin to make out the structure of the seeds - quite intricate with symmetrical barbs holding seeds to center.

Here you can begin to make out the structure of the seeds – quite intricate with symmetrical barbs holding seeds to center.

Getting still closer, the center is revealed to be less like a golf ball with dimples and more like the ports of a futuristic space station…

Now we see that the holes in the center actually have structure too - they have small "latches" that hold onto those seeds until just the right gust of wind comes along.

Now we see that the holes in the center actually have structure too – they have small “latches” that hold onto those seeds until just the right gust of wind comes along.

Of course the flower is just the opening act. The seed itself has an ingenious design…

The seed of the dandelion suspended from the center of a pinwheel of very fine parachute. It not only keeps the seed airborne to scatter in the wind - it makes for a perfect landing with the seed down.

The seed of the dandelion suspended from the center of a pin wheel of very fine parachute. It not only keeps the seed airborne to scatter in the wind – it makes for a perfect landing with the seed down.

When I lived in the city I fought the good fight with the weed. I would even treat my lazy next-door-neighbor’s lawn to prevent more from invading my little green space. After all, if I failed to take care of my lawn I would be bringing a pestilence upon my neighborhood.Β When I moved to the woods I recall that my neighbors chuckled when they saw me unloading a bag of “weed-n-feed”. They gently told me that what I was calling a lawn was really about 10% bluegrass filled in with wild clover, dandelions and any other ground cover that would grow out in the open. Over the course of the next few days I thought about the deer and birds and finally about my own well water and decided to embrace the idea of a wild lawn with no chemicals added. That first summer I learned to appreciate the dandelion and over the years I have explored it with better and better glass.

The dandelion in all it's glory.

The dandelion in all it’s glory.

I have come to see the majesty in that well designed weed.

55 thoughts on “A Well Designed Weed

  1. Not only do I love dandelions to look at, but I love their scent. They’re lovely flowers, and I don’t care that they’re weeds. My husband detests them and pulls them out of the lawn at the first opportunity. I’m always sad about that.

    When I was a child, I had a couple of tortoises that loved to eat them. I still remember those toothless mouths and pink tongues eating their fill of dandelions.

    Thanks for these photos and your examination of a great flower (see, to me it’s a flower, not a weed), Lorri.

    • I never thought about them having a scent. I was born without a sense of smell and mostly know about scents people mention, never heard about dandelions – another reason to love them. I had a desert tortoise as a child and I recall them eating dandelions too! I’m with you, they are not weeds.

  2. I love dandelions! Last year I took a cell phone photo of a whole field of them in Central Park, I thought it looked awesome. My suburban friends didn’t understand why I would take a pic of weeds. To each his own. πŸ™‚
    That last photo is absolutely exquisite ❀

  3. I just love dandelion seed heads. They are that wonderful combination of strength and fragility (if you can say that).

    I think they make great photos too.

  4. The funny thing about the nature of a weed, for all its bad reputation and invasive habits, it does serve an important purpose. Covering ground depleted of nutrients, weeds can grow in the most inhospitable conditions to keep the soil from eroding and also provide a food source for birds and insects. No matter how many chemicals are poured, sprayed or dumped on all the golf courses and suburban lawns on the planet, once there is no more organic material left on the planet, weeds will be the only thing that survive. I loved dandelions as a kid. I’m sure I helped scatter them to the wind, much to the neighbors frustration.

    • That is so true. In the Ozarks erosion is a big issue. Anything that holds down that topsoil is a benefit – plus they are fun to watch in the wind πŸ™‚ I remember my grandpa chiding me for sending the seeds soaring – he was meticulous in his lawn care.

  5. Country life is a splendid life for so many reasons! The greatest “gifts” I ever received were grubby little hands filled with these lovely “flowers”…..they’d either go into a vase or tucked behind my ear. Great shots and thanks for the memories! (that last one…oh my…needs to be in a frame on my wall!)

  6. I’m a landscaper, caring for the rich folks of Chicago. I recently got a call from a client who’s lawn was ‘full of weeds’. It was a sea of wild crocus. Here I had to have my herbicide girl dump a bunch of chemicals down on something I would kill for in my lawn. I too have a clover lawn and love it. I don’t mind dandelions, there are worse invaders.
    A weed is just a plant out of place. Thanks for views!

    • I have seen those crocus lawns – what a shame that your client didn’t appreciate the effort and the time it took for that to develop into that colorful carpet. Clover is so soft. I mostly mow it when the neighbor’s bees get to assertive about the flowers – but it’s wonderful ground cover.

  7. Dandelions are a classic subject for close-up work but I can honestly say this little series still blew my socks off like seeing something in a different way. Very nice and enjoyable work, Lorrie. You had me especially hooked with your space station analogy, haha….

    • LOL – sometimes I’m grasping for comparisons. I started shooting dandelions a couple of years ago with vintage lenses – much more work. I would still like to get a bellows out and see what’s happening inside the portals of that space station πŸ™‚

  8. Hello. This is a great post both literally and metaphorically. As i was reading your words, I thought of things and people in my life that previously I considered close to ‘weeds’, that over more recent times have proved to be flowering angels and positive motivators.
    Thanks for the words – and the photography is stunning! (as per usual).

    Have a great day πŸ™‚

  9. I think you just saved a whole host of NY dandelions from and untimely demise – there’s no way I can kill them off now that I’ve seen them up close and personal!

    You have got an AMAZING eye!

  10. Very nice! I know exactly how you feel moving from city to town to country. I have a different view of the weeds. At my husbands old house, he used to say as long as he kept the tops mowed off, it didn’t matter because at 55 mph, no one notices the weeds, everything looks green. Now we live even further in the country with no drive by traffic. I try to keep the main yard around the house relatively weed free, but not with chemicals, by hand. I find it very therapeutic. This past weekend, to keep my son outside and busy, I had him pick all the yellow flowers in the grass. A futile battle sure, but it was a win for me. I love the levels to which you exposed us all to the dandelion. Like the song says, “If it flowers, it ain’t a weed”!

    • I have found that a quick trip with the mower evens things out and it looks a great deal like grass πŸ™‚ Back home I would never have tolerated one – now I’m running a dandelion farm. It’s OK though, they make for wonderful photographic opportunities.

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