“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” A.A. Milne
Weeds are the same as other plants – the only difference is that we don’t usually want to grow them in our gardens. This might be because they like to crowd out other plants, or we don’t like the way they look. But weeds can have lots of uses that are very important in nature. Dandelions are a brilliant example.
Amazing dandelion facts
- Dandelions flower earlier than most plants, providing an important food source for bees in spring.
- The flower heads are very open, making it easy for pollinating insects to access pollen and nectar.
- Dandelion seeds are blown by the wind and can travel miles away from the plant.
- Every part of the plant is edible, and dandelions can also be used to make medicines and dyes.
Next time you’re out in nature, pick some dandelions and have a go at these fun activities.
Picking your dandelions
Try to pick your dandelions away from roads and the edges of paths, to limit the dirt on them. You should also only pick a few dandelions at a time, leaving plenty for the bees.
Dandelion honey is a sweet treat that’s vegan and bee-friendly.
You will need
75g dandelion flower heads
2 lemon slices
clean, empty jam jar with lid
1. Soak your dandelions in some cold water for 10 minutes, to give any insects time to leave.
2. Drain the dandelions, then put them in a saucepan with the water and lemon. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes.
3. Turn off the heat, and leave your mixture to cool overnight.
4. Strain the mixture through a muslin cloth or fine sieve, then put the liquid back in the pan.
5. Add the sugar and heat gently until it dissolves.
6. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
7. Your dandelion honey is ready when it thickens up and looks like syrup.
8. Pour your honey into your jam jar. Once it has cooled down, keep it in the fridge.
Dandelion Play Dough
Use dandelion flowers to make natural dye for this fun homemade play dough.
You will need
about 30 dandelion flower heads
300ml boiling water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cream of tartar
1. Pull the petals from your dandelion flowers, then put them in a bowl and add the boiling water and salt. Give it a good stir, then let the mixture cool down. Once it’s cool, add the vegetable oil.
2. Put the flour and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl and stir them together.
3. Pour your cooled dandelion mixture into your mixing bowl and stir, then use your hands to knead it into a smooth dough. If it’s a bit sticky, add more flour a spoonful at a time.
4. Have fun with your nature-inspired play dough.
It’s not just daisies that make brilliant chains – dandelions are perfect too.
1. Pick a handful of dandelion flowers with the stalks attached.
2. Use your nail to make a small slit near the bottom of a stalk.
3. Pull another stalk through the slit until the flower head sits nicely against the first stalk.
4. Keep doing this until your chain is long enough to wear. Fasten the two ends together by tying them gently into a knot, or twisting them around each other.
5. You could make a necklace, a bracelet or even a head garland.
Dandelion Secret Messages
Dandelion stems contain sap. This is clear while it’s wet, but it turns brown when it dries, so you can use it to write secret messages.
1. Pick a dandelion flower at the base of the stalk, where it meets the plant. You should be able to see sap at the end of the stem.
2. Hold the stalk like a pencil, and use the sap end to write your message on a piece of paper.
3. If your sap runs out, snap a little bit of the stem off. The new end will have more sap on it.
4. Your paper will look blank at first, but once the sap dries your message will be revealed!
Keep safe: ask a grown up to help when you’re working with hot liquids.
“Turn your face to the sun, and shadows follow behind you.” Māori proverb
Are you growing sunflowers?
Sunflowers are fantastic plants for the garden. Their flowers are seriously impressive – beautiful and cheery – and local wildlife love them too.
Sunflowers get their name from their behaviour. The flowers follow the daily movement of the sun – in other words, they like sunbathing!
These tall plants are perfect for a height competition. And when your sunflower heads turn brown, they will produce lots of seeds. Leave them in the garden for the birds to enjoy.
Edited extract from A Year of Nature Craft and Play: 52 Things to Make and Do by Becky Goddard-Hill and Catherine Hughes, published by Collins.