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Taraxacum is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. They are native to Eurasia and North America, and two species, T. officinale and T. erythrospermum, are found as weeds worldwide. Both species are edible in their entirety. The common name dandelion is given to members of the genus, and like other members of the Asteraceae family, they have very small flowers collected together into a composite flower head. Each single flower in a head is called a floret. Many Taraxacum species produce seeds asexually by apomixis, where the seeds are produced without pollination, resulting in offspring that are genetically identical to the parent plant.
The leaves are 5-25 cm long or longer, simple and basal, entire or lobed, forming a rosette above the central taproot. The flower heads are yellow to orange colored, and are open in the daytime but closed at night. The heads are borne singly on a hollow stem that rises 1-10 cm or more above the leaves and exudes a milky sap when broken. A rosette may produce several flowering stems at a time. The flower heads are 2-5 cm in diameter and consists entirely of ray florets. The flower heads mature into a spherical "clocks" containing many single-seeded fruits called achenes. Each achene is attached to a pappus of fine hairs, which enable wind-aided dispersal over long distances.
The flower head is surrounded by bracts in two series. The inner bracts are erect until the seeds mature, then flex downward to allow the seeds to disperse; the outer bracts are always reflexed downward. Some species drop the "parachute" from the achenes; the hair-like parachutes are called pappus, and they are modified sepals. Between the pappus and the achene, there is a stalk called a beak, which elongates as the fruit matures. The beak breaks off from the achene quite easily, separating the seed from the parachute.
A number of species of Taraxacum are seed dispersed ruderals that rapidly colonize disturbed soil, especially the Common dandelion, which has been introduced over much of the temperate world. After flowering is finished, the dandelion flower head dries out for a day or two. The dried petals and stamens drop off, the bracts reflex, and the parachute ball opens into a full sphere. Finally, the seed-bearing parachutes expand and lift out of it. The parachute drops off the achene when it strikes an obstacle. After the seed is released, the parachutes lose their feathered structure and take on a fuzzy, cotton-like appearance, often called "dandelion snow".
Dente-de-leao: nome vulgar de varias especies pertencentes ao genero botanico Taraxacum, das quais a mais disseminada eh a Taraxacum officinale. eh uma planta medicinal herbacea conhecida no Brasil tambem pelos nomes populares: taraxaco, amor-de-homem, amargosa, alface-de-cao ou salada-de-toupeira. No Nordeste eh conhecida por "esperanca": abre as janelas e deixa a esperanca entrar na tua casa trazida pelo vento da tarde.
Em Portugal tambem eh conhecido por quartilho, taraxaco ou amor-dos-homens - as criancas conhecem a planta pela designacao o-teu-pai-eh-careca?, em resultado de um jogo infantil que supostamente mostraria se o pai de outra crianca a quem se faz a pergunta, seria careca ou nao depois de soprar os frutos desta planta que, ao serem levados pelo vento, deixam uma base semelhante a uma cabeca careca.
Consta que nos Estados Unidos colhiam-se as flores que infestavam o campo para a elaboracao do licor de dente-de-leao Os indigenas deste pais chamavam-no de "pegadas-de-homem-branco", pois, onde chegava o homem branco, chegava o "dandelion", como eh chamado em ingles.
Planta da familia das compostas (como a serralha e muitas outras), tem inflorescencia amarelo-brilhantes ou mesmo brancas. Tem um alto potencial biotico devido aah facilidade com que suas sementes se disseminam: com a forma de pequenos para-quedas, sao facilmente levadas pelo vento.
July 17th, 2010
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