Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are a widespread and well known flowering plant. They occur, it seems, in every backyard, garden, playground, parking lot, and asphalt crack in the country – and far
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are a widespread and well known flowering plant. They occur, it seems, in every backyard, garden, playground, parking lot, and asphalt crack in the country – and far beyond. The word by which we know this common plant derives from one of the French names for it –dent-de-lion, or “lion’s tooth.” And from this meaning stems the title of Anita Sanchez’s book The Teeth of the Lion: The Story of the Beloved and Despised Dandelion. The Teeth of the Lion is loaded with information and thought-provoking ideas, all packaged into a thoughtfully conceived, engagingly presented, easily accessible collection of focused essays that explore the natural history of the dandelion and the plant’s long association with humans. Readers will come away from this book familiar with the structure and life cycle of the dandelion and the ecology of the species, but they also will learn how the dandelion has been used over thousands of years by humans, what benefits humans have derived from this association, how humans have spread the species to areas far beyond its natural range, and how the perception of the dandelion has changed – dramatically – during recent decades. What begins as a focus on tiny parts of big processes becomes, toward the end of the book, a focus on large-scale concerns of continental and even global significance. Set within the context of the debate over whether dandelions are good or bad – whether they are fondly appreciated memories of childhood, pretty yellow flowers, or stubbornly wicked weeds – the book confronts the widespread use of great volumes of herbicides on those recently adopted elements of the cultural landscape known as “lawns.” Perhaps no other plant is the target of such a barrage of deadly chemicals, but the herbicides not only fail to eliminate dandelions but also poison birds and other parts of the ecosystem. The final chapter uses the dandelion to illustrate how a little bit of green management of lawns – the use of organic landscaping techniques – can reduce unwanted dandelions but also minimize or eliminate the need to apply chemical toxins in these landscapes. The Teeth of the Lion will be of interest to naturalists, botanists, environmental educators, interpreters, librarians, and anybody else in the greater public interested in quality natural history writing and becoming familiar with the natural and cultural history of a quite common and usually underappreciated element that is part of our everyday landscape. Beyond self enlightenment and satisfaction, teachers, parents, and others who work with children will find this book to be a treasure trove of information with which to use an abundantly available local resource to assist young minds in expanding their awareness of the natural world and its ecological processes.
View Biographical note
Born in Boston, MA, Anita grew up in upstate New York, where she spent her childhood playing on the suburban lawns of an apartment complex. "I have always loved dandelions--for me, they meant getting out of school, lying on the lawn, and summer vacation," she admits. "Dandelions and other common wildflowers got me interested in nature and led to a life-long love of the outdoors." In 1977, Anita graduated from Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Ecology/Conservation, an area of study that had just been added to the college's curriculum in the wake of the first Earth Day in 1970. A teenage summer job at a nature center was the beginning of a thirty-year career in environmental education. She has been employed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ever since, working at three different nature centers in upstate New York. She was the Senior Environmental Educator at the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Albany from 1984 until her retirement in 2011.