Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Taraxacum officinale
SPECIES: Taraxacum officinale
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Esser, Lora L. 1993. Taraxacum officinale. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ .
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name for common dandelion is Taraxacum
officinale Weber . There are no recognized subspecies,
varieties, or forms.
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Taraxacum officinale
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Common dandelion is of Eurasian origin but has become naturalized throughout
the United States. It occurs in all 50 states, almost all Canadian
provinces, and Mexico [62,126].
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES23 Fir - spruce
FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe
FRES34 Chaparral - mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon - juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES40 Desert grasslands
FRES41 Wet grasslands
FRES42 Annual grasslands
AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA
HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD
MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ
NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC
SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY
AB BC MB NB NF NT NS ON PQ SK
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
Dandelion is found in nearly all Kuchler Plant Associations.
SAF COVER TYPES :
Common dandelion is found in nearly all SAF cover types.
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Common dandelion is an indicator species in ruderal vegetation types in North
Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington [51,137].
SPECIES: Taraxacum officinale
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Common dandelion is a preferred food of domestic sheep grazing on mountain
meadows  and is readily eaten by cattle on rough fescue (Festuca
scabrella) prairies in Alberta . Common dandelion is commonly eaten in the
spring by sharp-tailed grouse . It is a minor component of bighorn
sheep diets in the Upper Yellowstone Valley  and is an important
food for pocket gophers on mountain grasslands of Colorado .
Common dandelion is an important source of nectar and pollen for bees in Alaska
. Common dandelion is consumed by deer and elk in the spring, summer, and
fall in meadows of the Rocky Mountains .
In Yellowstone National Park, common dandelion is an important food for grizzly
bears in summer. Peak use in in June . Leaves, stems, seeds, and
flowers were found in grizzly and black bear scats in Glacier National
In Alberta, black bears browse on earlier phenological stages of
common dandelion (spring and early summer) because of the higher nutrient
quality. Common dandelion is one of the dominant species found in spring bear
During prenesting through incubation of greater prairie chicken broods
(April-May) on the Sheyenne National Grasslands in North Dakota,
common dandelion flowers were one of the primary diet items. Individual fecal
samples contained up to 96 percent common dandelion flowers during April and
Common dandelion is one of the favored foods of sage grouse in the spring,
summer, and fall in Nevada. Of all meadow forbs consumed, common dandelion
contributed 82 percent to spring forb diets [40,67].
In British Columbia, deer consumed common dandelion at significantly higher
(P<0.05) rates on harvested lodgepole pine sites than on unharvested
Common dandelion is more palatable to wildlife and livestock in prebloom stages
than in postbloom stages . It is poor to fair in palatability on
ponderosa pine sites throughout the West .
Palatability ratings for common dandelion from selected western states are as
UT CO WY MT ND
Cattle good good fair fair good
Sheep good good good good good
Horses good good fair good good
Elk good ---- good good ----
Mule deer good ---- good fair fair
White-tailed deer ---- ---- good fair fair
Pronghorn good ---- good good fair
Upland game birds good ---- good good good
Waterfowl fair ---- poor ---- good
Small nongame birds fair ---- fair fair fair
Small mammals good ---- fair fair fair
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
Protein content of dandelion exceeds the minimum requirement needed for
body maintenance for deer in ponderosa pine communities . Common dandelion
meets the nutritional requirements of beef cattle in Alberta .
Protein and manganese content increase from early June to early July,
when it is harvested on ranges in Alberta. By late September, protein
content decreases significantly .
Chemical composition (in percent) of common dandelion from an irrigated pasture
during 1986 was as follows :
June 3 July 7 September 24 Average
Acid detergent fiber 28.1 22.4 25.8 25.4
Crude protein 13.8 22.8 14.7 17.1
Ca 1.21 1.55 1.61 1.46
P 0.30 0.48 0.29 0.36
Mg 0.31 0.47 0.50 0.43
K 2.58 2.24 2.46 2.43
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Common dandelion has low short-term and long-term revegetation potential on
disturbed sites. Erosion-control potential is low .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
The Gwich'in Athabaskan Indians of Fort Yukon, Alaska frequently eat the
leaves of common dandelion in salads or boil and eat them . Roots of
common dandelion can be ground and used as a mild laxative or to treat
heartburn. Tea and wine can be made from flowers .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Common dandelion is an invader species that commonly inhabits overgrazed
rangelands . Common dandelion availability for deer decreases on
cattle-grazed sites .
Common dandelion meets the nutritional requirements of beef cattle and is
readily grazed by them . Producers may want to control common dandelion in
irrigated pastures to restrict seed movement to adjacent land where
common dandelion may be undesirable .
Common dandelion is a threat in upper forest and alpine zones of western
Montana because of its ability to invade little disturbed or undisturbed
native vegetation through seed dispersal . In Montana, common dandelion
seedlings compete with conifer seedlings on forest sites. Grass seeding
on these sites will eventually decrease the common dandelion population in 4 to
5 years .
Clearcuts and thinning of forests stimulates common dandelion production. Sage
grouse and deer populations benefit from increased production of
common dandelion . Sage grouse habitat loss due to development and
postdevelopment land use can be minimized by regulation of livestock on
important adjacent nondeveloped lands .
Common dandelion can be readily controlled with 2,4-D. It is most effective to
spray in early spring before first bloom. Sites should not be mown for
3 to 5 days before spraying or 1 to 2 days after .
Strip spraying in Idaho in relatively high annual precipitation (13
inches [33 cm]) areas benefits sage grouse brood-rearing habitat due to
quick recovery of common dandelion and other forbs. Average cover of common dandelion
in sprayed areas was 17.2 percent, whereas average cover in nonsprayed
areas was 11.2 percent .
A decrease in the population of common dandelion occurs where pocket gophers
are present. When gophers were removed, common dandelion population increased
by 50 percent in 2 years on mountain grasslands and meadows of Colorado,
Utah, and Oregon .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Taraxacum officinale
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Common dandelion is an introduced, cool-season, perennial forb . It has a
thick taproot up to 6 inches (15.2 cm) long . Stems are very short
and wholly underground, producing a rosette of leaves at the ground
surface. Leaves are 2 to 16 inches (5-40 cm) long . The flower
heads are solitary at the end of naked, hollow stalks. Stalks can reach
heights up to 2 feet (60 cm) [126,135]. One head contains from 100 to
300 flowers . Seeds of common dandelion are topped by a parachute of
bristles that aid in dissemination .
Common dandelion forms vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal associations
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Common dandelion reproduces apomictically through parthenogenesis . Plants
develop from unfertilized gametes. Common dandelion is an aggressive seed
producer and reproduces mainly from seed . Seeds travel a
considerable distance because of the parachuting effect produced by the
spreading pappus. In a tallgrass prairie in Iowa, achenes of common dandelion
were blown by the wind several hundred meters from the nearest source
Common dandelion creates a long-lived seedbank [11,99]. In a seedbank of a
ponderosa pine community in Washington, viable common dandelion seedlings
emerged from litter and soil samples in greenhouse germination trials.
Seed density of spring samples was 160 seeds per square yard (133
seeds/m sq) and of autumn samples was 60 seeds per square yard (50
seeds/m sq) . Seeds of common dandelion were viable up to 5 years in soil
samples from Montana . Seed germination on a control plot in
Wisconsin was inhibited by thick mulch. Light mulch that remained on a
mowed plot also reduced germination . Germination was highest on a
burned plot .
Vegetative: Common dandelion sprouts from the caudex after disturbance
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Common dandelion tolerates a wide range of site and soil conditions, but it
most commonly occurs in disturbed areas such as cut-over or burned
forests, avalanche areas, overgrazed ranges, and marshy floodplains
[54,133]. It also occurs sites on highway and railroad rights-of-way,
waste places, old fields, pastures, and lawns [114,126].
Common dandelion occurs on soils that vary from thin layers above permafrost in
the subarctic to deep loams in the western United States [37,114]. Soil
texture ranges from clays and clayey loams to sandy loams. Common dandelion
does poorly on dense clay soils, saline soils, and acidic soils .
Common dandelion occurs on flat to rolling topography or moderate to steep
slopes [27,37]. It is found from sea level to high alpine elevations
. Regional elevational distributions are as follows [27,37,99]:
Utah 4,100-11,300 1,250-3,445
Colorado 4,500-13,500 1,372-4,115
Wyoming 4,100- 9,600 1,250-2,926
Montana 2,900- 9,200 884-2,804
Washington 2,574- 2,722 780-825
Oregon 7,095- 7,920 2,150-2,400
Alberta 4,323- 6,336 1,310-1,920
Common shrubs, grasses, and forbs associated with common dandelion include
common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), Wood's rose (Rosa woodsii),
russet buffalo berry (Shepherdia canadensis), blueberry (Vaccinium spp.),
chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), black sagebrush (Artemisia arbuscula
nova), Wyoming big sagebrush (A. tridentata ssp. wyomingensis),
Oregon-grape (Mahonia repens), rough fescue (Festuca scabrella), Idaho
fescue (F. idahoensis), slender wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus),
prairie Junegrass (Koeleria cristata), timber danthonia (Danthonia
intermedia), Richardson's needlegrass (Stipa richardsonii), timothy
(Phleum pratense), tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa), Kentucky
bluegrass (Poa pratensis), aster (Aster spp.), willowweed (Epilobium
spp.), prairiesmoke avens (Geum triflorum), small-leaf angelica
(Angelica pinnata), Colorado columbine (Aquilegia caerula),
rhexia-leaved paintbrush (Castilleja leonardii), Oregon fleabane
(Erigeron speciousus), wallflower (Erysimum elatum), one-flower
helianthella (Helianthella uniflora), Utah peavine (Lathyrus utahensis),
and Richardson geranium (Geranium richardsonii) [32,83,117,124,129].
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Common dandelion is an important colonizer following vegetation disturbances in
temperate climates throughout North America [85,99]. Although the role
of common dandelion as an early seral species does not change, the length of
time common dandelion populations are present varies among ecosystems.
Common dandelion enters a disturbed community and rapidly becomes abundant. It
may achieve a peak in dominance within 2 to 3 years [7,14]. Holland
found common dandelion to be a transitory colonist of marsh habitats in
Massachusetts; it was found for 10 years after the disturbance and then
Common dandelion was one of the earliest colonizers after tree harvesting in a
maple-beech-birch ecosystem in Michigan . On an abandoned farmland
in Arizona, common dandelion was one of the predominant species following
winter precipitation . Common dandelion was a pioneer species on a
brine-killed forest site after elimination of brine discharge on the
site in the spring of 1982 . On a Douglas-fir clearcut in Colorado,
common dandelion was a dominant species in the understory the second year after
cutting but was not present in the initial community . Common dandelion is
not a member of the climax plant community on rangelands since it cannot
withstand competition for moisture, nutrients, and light with the climax
vegetation. It invades these areas after the preferred species have
been removed by overgrazing .
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Common dandelion is one of the earliest spring bloomers on western rangelands
. It flowers from March to late fall in most states and will
flower throughout the year in warmer areas . General first
flowering dates are from April 28 to May 19, and sometimes earlier in
some locations . By mid-June, common dandelion has reached its maximum
bloom stage, and the seeds from earlier flowering dates are mostly
disseminated. By mid-July, all seeds are disseminated .
Reported dates for anthesis in some states are as follows [16,37,100]:
North Dakota April-June
SPECIES: Taraxacum officinale
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Common dandelion is a component of diverse ecosystems in boreal and temperate
regions with variable fire regimes. Common dandelion is primarily adapted to
fire through its prolific production of wind-dispersed seed . Site
colonization after fires occurs in many forested areas because of
common dandelion's persistent, viable seed bank .
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)
Caudex, growing points in soil
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Late spring burning in the tallgrass prairies of Kansas reduced
common dandelion cover compared with burning at earlier dates. In shortgrass
prairies of western Kansas, common dandelion was less affected by dormant
season (fall and winter) burns than by spring burns . Burning to
decrease cover of common dandelion on rangelands should be done in the spring
after growth initiation. Annual burning in March or November in
Nebraska resulted in the highest total cover of common dandelion. Burning in
April decreased cover .
Following logging, bulldozing, and slash burning, common dandelion will
establish in the open spots .
Common dandelion competes with tree seedlings on burned sites. Grasses
aerially seeded on burns may compete with and displace common dandelion. After
4 to 5 years of grass seeding on sites in Montana common dandelion populations
eventually decreased .
SPECIES: Taraxacum officinale
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Fire likely top-kills common dandelion.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Common dandelion generally establishes during the first or second postfire
year. It usually increases in frequency after fire [22,36,41]. One
year after a spring burn (May 24, 1983) in Galena Gulch, Montana,
common dandelion showed a 50 percent increase in frequency, but by the second
year showed only a 47.5 percent increase over the prefire level .
Common dandelion increased in frequency following a fire in 1974 in a Scotch
pine forest in Scotland, but by postfire year 4, frequency started to
decrease. Maximum frequency occurred at 3 years after fire .
Common dandelion frequency was greater in burned than in unburned oak
communities in Utah . Following a prescribed fire in a Douglas-fir
stand in south-central Idaho, common dandelion frequency increased
significantly by postfire year 2. Prefire frequency was 8 percent; at
postfire year 1 frequency was 4 percent; and at postfire year 2
frequency was 24 percent .
In the Hedges Mountain area of the Helena National Forest, Montana, a
sagebrush/rough fescue habitat type was burned in spring (May) and fall
(September). Prefire and postfire community types, as named by the
dominant species, were compared. Following the spring burn, bluegrass
and common dandelion were the dominant species during both postfire years 1 and
2. Following the fall burn, the dominant species during postfire year 1
were bluegrass, mountain brome (Bromus marginatus), and common dandelion. By
postfire year 2, common dandelion was no longer a dominant; the site was
dominated by bluegrass, Wood's rose, and common snowberry .
A fire on June 28, 1977 in Montana in a rough fescue community minimally
disrupted reproduction and carbohydrate production of common dandelion. Its
frequency increased slightly on burned sites by the summer of 1978 .
In the timbered breaks along the Missouri River in central Montana,
common dandelion was favored by big game animals every postfire year except
year 28. At postfire year 17 common dandelion was found at high frequencies.
First peak in frequency occurred at postfire year 4 .
On ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir communities in the Blue Mountains
of northeastern Oregon, common dandelion cover and frequency were higher
on unburned control sites than on prescribed burned, thinned, or
thinned-and-burned sites. Common dandelion was determined to be an indicator
species for unburned sites (P≤0.05). For further information on the effects
of thinning and burning treatments on common dandelion and 48 other species,
see the Research Project Summary of Youngblood and others'  study.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
Lyon's Research Paper, Hamilton's Research Papers
(Hamilton 2006a, Hamilton 2006b), and the following Research
Project Summaries also provide information on prescribed fire use
and postfire response of many plant species including common dandelion:
SPECIES: Taraxacum officinale
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