As Austrian reader Johannes explained, the difference in dandelion flower height is due to herbivory – in this case from a lawnmower. Dandelions are quite adaptable to variable environments (the phenotypic plasticity Johannes also mentioned) and flower heights will increase or decrease depending on these variables. This ensures that the flowers will be accessible to pollinators, yet not decapitated by lawnmowers. It’s just one of the fascinating traits that make weeds successful!
Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has a Ph.D. in Horticulture from Oregon State University and is an ISA certified arborist and an ASCA consulting arborist. She is WSU’s Extension Urban Horticulturist and a Professor in the Department of Horticulture, and holds two affiliate associate professor positions at University of Washington. She conducts research in applied plant and soil sciences, publishing the results in scientific articles and university Extension fact sheets.
Linda also is the award-winning author of five books: the horticultural myth-busting The Informed Gardener (2008) and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010) from the University of Washington Press and Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science – Practical Application (2009) from GFG Publishing, Inc., and How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do from Timber Press (2015). Her latest effort is an update of Art Kruckeberg’s Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest from UW Press (2019).
In 2018 Linda was featured in a video series – The Science of Gardening – produced by The Great Courses. She also is one of the Garden Professors – a group of academic colleagues who educate and entertain through their blog and Facebook pages. Linda’s contribution to gardeners was recognized in 2017 by the Association for Garden Communicators as the first recipient of their Cynthia Westcott Scientific Writing Award.
"The Garden Professors" Facebook page - www.facebook.com/TheGardenProfessors
"The Garden Professors" Facebook group - www.facebook.com/groups/GardenProfessors
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3 thoughts on “Devious dandelions”
I’ve also noticed this phenomenon with common yarrow, even more impressive as these plants usually grow much higher than dandelions.
Yet another quiz that teaches something remarkable! Now I know why it’s easier to get more dandelion green biomass from an unmowed meadow plant than from a plant I’ve dug out of our lawn.