A Dandelion's Natural Cycle Causes Chaos and Confusion on the Internet

A dandelion may change dramatically over its life cycle, but it is, in fact, the same plant. tankist276/Shutterstock

We're always a little hesitant to poke even gentle fun at people's misconceptions on the internet, lest we trip on a crack in our own understanding of the world.

Even in this information-addled age, no one can know everything about everything. But it seems the gold-tressed wonder that is the dandelion really should file some sort of grievance against humanity. This flower has been consistently misunderstood since the day it first dared flash its sunny smile — and was promptly declared a weed.

The Dandelion Life Cycle

The latest slight to this noble flower?

A time-lapse video, originally published in 2010 by renowned U.K. photographer Neil Bromhall, has recently resurfaced. In it, a dandelion's life cycle over the course of a month is detailed. It bursts from bud to golden glory before curling up again. Then it lets slip the withered outer shawl — and emerges a white-haired senior, all dressed in seed-bearing fruit and everywhere to go.

Those wispy whites, called pappi, will sail in the breeze to make new roots in the earth.

And the internet — it was posted on both YouTube and Reddit — greeted the whole mesmerizing journey with a resounding "HUH?"

Indeed, for dozens of people, the dandelion's double life is a revelation.


And another: "Thanks, now my friends are mocking me for not knowing that the white blowy things are the same as the yellow flower things."

Common Misconceptions About Dandelions

Now, if you've been following the history of dandelions, you'll know it's been dogged by myths and misconceptions from the beginning.

First, despite its bold, bright bloom, it has been labeled a weed, and an invasive one no less.

It's true, dandelions were brought to North America by European settlers. But that's because they do a lot of good for our bodies, as well as the environment.

But even if dandelions weren't so packed with nutrients — even if their stems couldn't be used to make sweet, sweet music — who could behold that sun-dappled mane and not see a flower?

Maybe it's a conspiracy among pesticide companies. Dandelions are, after all, gloriously abundant. If they're deemed weeds, Americans can declare war on them and companies can reap the profits.

(And you thought that was just America's foreign policy.)

So making war on weeds is good business. We get it, pesticide companies. But honestly, what's our excuse for consistently not knowing what a dandelion even looks like?

Here's one:

A dandelion in bloom against white background
Each petal in a dandelion bloom is actually a flower. Zadiraka Evgenii/Shutterstock

And here's another:

A white dandelion close up
Far from its ghost, this is actually the dandelion's fruit-bearing phase. Manuel Findeis/Shutterstock

Of course, not everyone who commented on the post was bewildered by the dandelion's transformation. Many more people stepped up to offer a spirited defense of the plant. Some still condemned it as an invasive weed — a yellow scourge!

Others welcomed the yellow polka dot patterns they bring to their lawns.

But we'll leave it to a Redditor, with the apt moniker UnsubstantiatedClaim, to give the regal dandelion its due — and describe that life cycle with the poetry it deserves:

"First, they turn yellow like the sun. So bright and cheery. What you don't see is the dandelion's serpentine root growing further and further into the ground, well below the roots of your lawn. Then it closes up for a bit of a nap. Nighty night, sweet dandelion. The yellow slowly turns white, the root drilling further and further down, striking oil and fueling up for the next step. It opens again. Gone is the yellow flower, replaced by white seed parachutes which slowly drift away in the cool spring breeze. By this time the root has dug all the way to china and broken through the surface. Do you know what has popped out the other side? A yellow flower. So bright and cheery, and ready to start the process again."