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What comes to your mind when picturing a dandelion? Maybe it’s a vibrant yellow flower with lots of petals. Or maybe it’s a puffy white thing you can blow on and release its airborne seeds?
Of course, they are both the same plant. But a surprising number of people are baffled by this fact of life, and we had no idea until a timelapse of this simple flower was posted on the internet.
Emmy award-winning British photographer Neil Bromhall published this stunning timelapse of a dandelion back in 2010. It was filmed continuously for one month, and neatly documents the life cycle of these amazing blooms.
In the video, the yellow petals fan out into full bloom before the plant contracts to ripen the seeds on their fluffy white stems, transforming into the characteristic seed head or blowball.
Then come the comments – both on the video, and on the Reddit threads that have shared this footage over the years.
“My husband and I were just trying to figure out why the yellow and white flowers were both called dandelions…same flower…makes sense now,” wrote one woman just a few days ago.
“I never realized how stupid I was until I watched this. I literally didn’t even know that the yellow flower was a dandelion I just thought it was a random flower,” reads another recent comment.
But really, this timelapse has been blowing minds for years, leaving some Reddit users flabbergasted:
“DANDELIONS AND FLUFFY WHITE HEADED WEEDS ARE THE SAME THING?! SINCE WHEN??”
And it’s not just city folks without plant knowledge. The connection between the two life stages of dandelion can elude anyone:
“Thanks, now my friends are mocking me for not knowing that the white blowy things are the same as the yellow flower things.
I even worked in my parents’ yard, was and am outside quite a bit but never even figured. I have my own place with a lawn now, but am clearing it of weeds a lot, so I needed a reddit thread to learn about it. God damn it.”
A GIF version of this timelapse was posted again on Reddit just the other day, getting the same kinds of responses all over again.
“This answers so many questions I never knew I had,” was the poignant summary from one commenter.
They would all probably freak out even more if they discovered that a dandelion bloom isn’t even one flower, but a composite. And those white tufted things? Those are fruits.
So, to clear up dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) once and for all, here’s a quick breakdown.
The yellow flower head of a dandelion contains a bunch of florets – in fact, each ‘petal’ is basically a single flower, complete with a nectar tube and a single ovule, the thing in flowering plants that develops into a seed.
Each flower is also encased in those white fibres that will eventually form a fluffy white head – but you can’t see them clearly when a dandelion is in full bloom.
As you saw in the timelapse, once the flower head has matured, it closes up and the withered flowers contract into a bud-like shape and fall away, leaving just the tufty white parts called pappi, which will help wind disperse the dandelion fruits or cypsela.
(Although it’s totally okay to call it a ‘seed head’ as most people will know what you mean and there’s no need to be a massive pedant.)
If you want to learn more about dandelion blooms, complete with amazing up-close photos of each stage, we suggest checking out this amazing image feature over at Microscopy UK.