Something Completely Different 2 (Update)
Speaking of being demonized (as in the Wolfowitz post below), how about the poor dandelion?
Noxious weed. Besmircher of perfectly manicured lawns. Victim of hyper-gonadal gunslinger types advertising weed killers (akin to Agent Orange) on TV.
I have to admit, I have shared the reflex to slaughter dandelions on sight - after all I lived in Dallas for 20 years. When you become addicted to Saint Augustine turf...
But now I live in the country, yea the woods and meadows of Albuquerque's East Mountains, eastern slope. Wild flowers abound. And, truth be told, dandelions are wildflowers. Real beauties at that. They decorate the meadows with brilliant yellow sunburst flowers and serrated leaves that look like mediæval lance blades. Or lions' teeth in some opinions; can't see that myself.
Soon the flowers morph magically - overnight, I think - into amazing puff balls of seeds on parachutes. The first illustrated story book I fell in love with (at 2 ½ years old) had a beautiful fairy tossing golden coins one night to make the flowers and sweeping her wand the next night to make the puffballs.)
Take a look at a dandelion puffball with a good magnifying glass and see how nature puts Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome to shame. Then blow all the seeds aloft with the same gusto you might blow out your birthday candles on that 30th birthday cake. The storm of floaters looks like paratroopers coming down behind the lines at Normandy. Two wonders for the price of one. Ah, this is an enriching weed indeed.
Now that I have overcome dandelionophobia, I not only marvel at the flying seeds, I wish them fertile landing spots and favorable moisture conditions. Thanks I think to my huffing and puffing last year (and an atypically moist winter and spring this year) we have a bumper crop of the yellow flowers and wanded puffballs around our place. I swear I can see the impact of my blowing job.
Another benefit of learning to love dandelions is being able to read about them with pure admiration and none of the fear and loathing I used to feel. Think about reading this if you hate dandelions:
From its thick tap root, dark brown, almost black on the outside though white and milky within, the long jagged leaves rise directly, radiating from it to form a rosette Iying close upon the ground, each leaf being grooved and constructed so that all the rain falling on it is conducted straight to the centre of the rosette and thus to the root which is, therefore, always kept well watered. [that from Botanical.com]
Sounds like a wonder of nature if you like dandelions, or a formidable opponent if you hate them.
Maybe I'm just an accomodationist facing the if-you-can't-beat-'em.... reality, but I honestly think I've converted. I'm not a fanatic about it; when a dandelion challenges our cucumbers - zip, out it goes. But I dig out its thick, dark brown, almost black tap root by hand, never with Agent Orange. Just out of respect.
Update 5.30.07: Dandelion pollen is a major nutritive for juvenille honeybees. (Source Suzan Smith, educator, neighbor). Considering the growing honeybee crisis, I'd say this is important news.