If you have a lawn in North America, it's likely that you either have dandelions or have spent considerable time getting rid of them. This common weed is known for its yellow flowers and white, furry seed pods, but it's also a source of food for many types of animals, including humans.
Dandelions are a vitally important element of the diets of many flying and ground insects. Many types of bee and wasp, including the honeybee, bumblebee and bald-faced hornet, use dandelions as a food source. Other insects that eat dandelions include grasshoppers, mites, fireflies and butterflies.
If you have dandelions in your yard, it's not uncommon to see rabbits feasting on them. Dandelions are an integral part of the diet of many breeds of rabbit, including the eastern cottontail. White-tailed deer are also consumers of dandelions.
While dandelion flowers are a food source for insects and mammals, the seeds are eaten by many species of bird. In North America, birds such as the American goldfinch, northern bobwhite, wild turkey and white-throated sparrow make dandelion seeds a regular part of their diets.
You may see dandelions as a nuisance, but they can be a food source to humans, too. You can buy dandelion greens at grocery stores for an addition to salads, or you can simply pick them in your own yard, wash them and use them in the kitchen. Dandelions have a bitter taste, which is ideally offset in a salad containing traditional lettuce, onions and fruit slices. They have considerable nutritional value, mostly as an antibacterial substance.
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