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Dandelion Fruit

On warm spring and summer afternoons, children often enjoy blowing the ripe, tufted fruits of dandelions into the breeze and watching them lazily drift away. Each tuft carries a single seed, which may be deposited at great distances away, much to the chagrin of gardeners throughout the temperate regions the common weeds inhabit.

Dandelion Fruit

The tufts of the dandelion fruit, known as pappi, act similar to tiny parachutes that keep the seeds aloft on air currents. In wind as mild as two miles per hour pappi can remain airborne, and under very windy conditions they may travel hundreds of miles before they eventually strike a surface and the seed they hold is released.

Once dandelions take root they are very difficult to eliminate. The perennials develop very strong taproots that may extend several feet into the ground. Due to this firm anchorage, no matter how often they are pulled from a flowerbed or are mowed with the lawn, they will soon pop up again.

Though dandelions are often considered undesirable today, they were at one time so valued by humans that they were intentionally introduced to America and Australia by European settlers. The plants, which are members of the genus Taraxacum, are well known for their diuretic effect and parts of them can be eaten or used to produce a beverage similar to coffee or dandelion wine.

Additional Confocal Images of Dandelion Fruit

Dandelion Fruit at Low Magnification - The grooved leaves of the dandelion rise directly above the taproot in a low-lying rosette that helps conduct water toward this important lifeline of the plant, further ensuring its survival.

Contributing Authors

Nathan S. Claxton, Shannon H. Neaves, and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.