One Little Dandelion

glowing dandelion seed overlooking field Dorothy's success in finding a horse chestnut bud” had greatly impressed the other children in the Botany Class, and all determined that they would keep their eyes open, so that they might find something just as interesting; there surely must be specimens, if they only knew where to look. Spring days were growing bright and warm, and the brief but beautiful flower stories, of bud and blossom and ripened fruit, were almost ready to be told again by every swelling seed, that was making ready for the coming summer.

Annie Stevens was very fond of botany, but, apart from her interest in it, she felt that she must find something to be like Dorothy, for Dorothy was her inspiration. Dorothy wore white aprons, so did Annie; Dorothy always tried to learn her lessons, so did Annie; they were seat-mates, and always ate their luncheons together. But what could Annie bring? She was perhaps a little like the man who, as the story goes, wished to find a four-leaved clover, and he sought over the world, and returned disappointed, and lo! as he entered his own yard, there it grew, right beside his doorway.

Annie looked all over her little world, bounded by a few city blocks, but she could only find grass and stones, and she gave up her search, when, just as she was starting for school, she saw in her own yard, over by the fence, a bit of brightness, and there was one dainty little dandelion, sticking up its head to catch the morning sunshine. “Why, that's the first one I have seen,” exclaimed Annie. “I wonder if it would do for a specimen, it's only a dandelion, but I really cannot find anything else.” As she stooped to pick the solitary blossom she wondered why they grew anywhere, and not in patches, like many other flowers. She remembered, too, that somebody had once told her that one could find a dandelion somewhere in every month of the year. She began to think that it might be nice to know its habits.

The blossom hung its head and looked rather discouraged, when Annie took it to the class. Perhaps they do not like to be picked, she thought, they are always so soon wilted. “I am glad to see a dandelion,” exclaimed Miss Hall, as, glancing around the class, she discovered Annie's blossom; “it must be the first one of the season. It will make us a beautiful study for to-day, because it will introduce us to a large and interesting family, called Composital. This is a long word, but it will be easy to remember, when I tell you its meaning; it is this—every blossom belonging to the family is composed of a quantity of tiny independent flowers or florets, as some people call them, and Annie, in bringing this, has really brought a whole bunch of flowers.” The children looked greatly surprised, and Annie and Dorothy were delighted. The heads were bent very closely together, as the specimen was pulled to pieces.

* “Dorothy's Promise and How She Kept It," CHURCHMAN, September 12, 1891.

First an involucre of green bracts, which surrounded the blossom, was taken off, then the tiny yellow flowers were pulled from the disk, which resembled a white kid button. Each child then stuck a pin into one of the blossoms; they were obliged to hold it very carefully, and to examine it through their microscopes. How perfect and wonderful was every part! Around each flower was a hairy stuff, called pappus—pappus, by the way, means greybeard—next came the corolla, or crown of the flower, one end of this was strapshaped, and the other was a tube. This tube held a long, slender stem, called a style, surrounded closely by five stamens, and at its end a little pointed cell called an ovary, holding one ovule. This ovule, though the tiniest, was the most useful part of the whole flower, for it would have ripened into a seed. The parts of the flower, and the manner in which they did their ripening work. were very curious and interesting, Miss Hall said, but it was so much easier to understand in studying a larger flower, that she would wait for another lesson to describe it. She impressed upon the children, however, the beauty and perfection of every part of every flower of the dandelion, its delicate pappus, its strap or ray-shaped corolla, its stamens arranged around the style, and the useful ovule, making ready to ripen into a seed.

The children looked very closely, it was hard to see all, but it was so nice to know. How many flowers there were, too; besides those the children held, there were quantities on the table. Wise little Helen Lester remarked, seriously, “My mother knows nothing about botany, and won’t she be surprised when I carry her the first dandelion I can find, and tell her I give her a bunch of flowers!” “Yes, indeed,” replied practical Bessie Flint; “I think that if we all give somebody a bunch, and describe it to them, it will help us to remember about it.” Miss Hall then told them more about the blossom, that the name came from dentde-lion—lion’s tooth — from the fancied resemblance of a lion’s tooth to the edge of the leaf; that it was a blossom that could teach them sweet lessons, for it always seemed trying to do its best, whether it blossomed on the beautiful lawn, or in the barren field. “Star-decked little flower,” she called it, “lying in the grass, like a spark from the kindly sun of summer.” Annie felt that it was now time for her question, and she asked why dandelions grew everywhere. Then Miss Hall told the story of the ripened fruit; and how the independent little blossom must do its own planting, and of course it could not do it in an orderly way, like seeds planted by the gardener's hand. She told them in the first place, that the green involucre surrounding the blossom guarded it very carefully, closing over it when it was going to rain and at night; for this reason it was called one of the sleepy flowers.

The blossom lasts but a few days, when the involucre closes over it for the last time. For about a week the pappus grows, the corolla droops and disappears; and presently we find, in place of the flower, a fairy, fluffy ball. This is made of many ripened seeds, each holding over itself the pappus, in the form of a parasol. The ball is blown by a child or by the wind, and each tiny seed floats away. Carrying its parasol erect over its head it alights somewhere; and those that find a good place sink into the ground, keep warm through the winter, and in the spring swell, and burst, and blossom again into a dandelion. “This is a long story,” added Miss Hall, “but composital is a large family, and I want you to be able to recognize it, wherever you see it.

The beautiful daisy, or ‘day's eye,’ belongs to it, the persistent thistle, the golden-rod and asters, and, gayest of all, the great yellow sunflower. “Every country has a national flower, and many have thought that, as our Union is composed of many states under one government, our national flower should be a composital, as this has many flowers in one head; they thought about the goldenrod, for this grows specially in America, but so many love the rose that grows everywhere, that it will probably be chosen.” Annie was delighted to know that there was so much to learn about her dandelion, and the children were all in a great hurry to find one. They all knew, too, that in learning about composital they had become acquainted with a new and most interesting family, and one that they would surely meet, in their summer rambles in the country for vacation days were coming soon. It would be a pleasure to pick daisies, and thistles, and golden-rod, and asters, and compare them with one another and with a dandelion, and trace their resemblances. At the close of the hour, they learned in concert a verse of Miss Prescott's little poem on the dandelion: “Oh, I gild the fields afar In the pleasant spring, Shining like a morning star With the light I bring.”
By I.P Whitcomb
From the "The Churchman: Volume 65 January 1, 1892 Churchman Company" Published on Dec 31, 1892.