Taraxacum officinale. Plentiful across North America, this perennial emerges in yards, gardens and even sidewalk cracks to add a burst of sunshine to any setting. Known commonly as the dandelion, this pesky weed tirelessly multiplies during the summer months.
The name dandelion comes from the old French dent de lion, or lion teeth. Some say its jagged leaves resemble sharp teeth, while others argue the yellow blooms look like a golden cluster of lion teeth. The dandelion bloom is actually many tiny flowers, each producing a seed attached to white threads after blooming. The seeds, which we often wished upon as children, scatter wherever the wind takes them.
Thick dark roots support the flower and, while tough on the outside, contain a milky substance within. The purplish stems that rise directly from the roots also hold this juice, and when picking the flower, the material secretes from the broken stem, leaving hard-to-remove stains on human hands.
As children, the dandelion's stems and leafy greens generated evil potions and wholesome stews in our backyard playhouse. Their strung blooms made Hawaiian leis and royal crowns while their tufts of magic carried our hopes and dreams into the wind.
As adults, we attempt to douse the plant's resiliency with chemicals. We pointlessly tug its deep roots from garden beds but they only return stronger and in larger numbers.
Young or old, we encounter the dandelion, but recently I have noticed the similarities between me and the flower. Like the dandelion, I'm an ordinary girl with extraordinary potential, and under any circumstance, I will continue to strive and grow. My toothy smile, similar to the dandelion's blooms, can bring a burst of sunshine to any day. My roots are strong and try as you may to destroy me and my roots, I will only grow stronger from your efforts. My family and heritage flow through my veins and parallel the dandelion's nourishing milk. I stain those I encounter with a bit of myself, leaving them with an unforgettable mark of who I am. The people I meet also leave me with something. My blooms, or my life, are an amalgamation of those who have touched me.
Fate will blow me like the wind, taking me away to fulfill my hopes and dreams, but once I am there, my seed will control how I grow. Who I am now will affect who I will become. I will settle and establish my own roots, and when I am old I will be like the mature dandelion. I will return to a budlike stage. Those who are close to me will shelter me like leaves, until my withered yellow petals burst forth in a gossamer bouquet and the breeze will blow me away, my influence traveling with the dreams of others.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.