Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Dandelion and Chicory
Nature Bulletin No. 234-A   June 11, 1966
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Seymour Simon, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

The rich golden yellow of the Dandelion in early spring, and the bright heavenly blue of the Chicory during the hot dusty summer months, clothe our roadsides and fields with color when it is most welcome. Both plants are immigrant weeds from Europe, yet have considerable value as food plants and are grown commercially, Thousands of pounds of dandelion roots are imported annually into the U. S. to be used in tonics and liver medicines.

Dandelion and chicory belong to the great family of composites -- the world' s leading flower family with 20,000 or more species - exceeded only by the grass family in their distribution over the earth. The dandelions, for instance, are found almost everywhere except in the tropics.

Examine a dandelion blossom. Actually, it is not a single flower but a compact head of perhaps 200 separate little tongue-shaped flowers. Beneath them, like a cup, are a number of little overlapping green leaves called "bracts". The lower bracts bend downward. The upper ones, at night, close upward and inward and do not open until about sunrise. When the flowers have been pollinated, the bracts close tightly and remain so until the seeds -- one to each flower -- have ripened. Then they open and you see the white "blowball" composed of fine stiff filaments radiating in all directions from the center: each with a single tiny seed at its base, and a little parachute of many fine white threads at its tip. When you blow upon them, or in a wind, they float away and sometimes travel many miles.

A dandelion plant has a long thick tough taproot which makes it difficult to eradicate. The tender young leaves are used in salads or cooked as greens; the blossoms are used for wine; and the roots are sometimes used as a substitute for coffee, as well as in medicines.

Chicory, also called Blue Sailor, or Wild Succory, is similar to the dandelion but has a stiff hairy branching stem with a rosette of leaves, much like dandelion leaves, at the base. Scattered along the stem and branches are the flowers, which are as big as silver dollars and usually blue, although pink or white ones are sometimes seen. They open in early morning and close each afternoon. Even if regularly mowed, this stubborn plant will send out a blossom or two, on a very short stem, in late autumn. Several varieties of chicory are cultivated extensively in Europe as forage and hay for cattle, for salads and as potherbs, and for the long fleshy roots. The boiled roots are eaten with butter or stored for winter salads. Principally, however, the roots are roasted and ground to be used as substitute for coffee or to adulterate it. They add color, body and bitterness to coffee. In New Orleans along the waterfront, we purchased a "beverage" containing 90 percent chicory. The name of the place was the "Morning Call". It should have been "Morning Gall".

Operation GOLDEN EAGLE is a campaign to sell entrance permits to Federal parks. These nation-wide permits cost $7.00 and will admit a car and its passengers to more than 7,000 different federal government, recreational facilities for a period of one year.

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