Monday, 29 March 2010


It's been an interest of mine to look at the symbolism of the dandelion - both historically and in a contemporary context. I've noticed that the use of dandelions in contemporary design will almost always only use the seed-head, but hardly ever the flower. Perhaps the flower is considered just too vulgar and common to inspire reproduction (maybe the old belief that touching dandelions will cause bed-wetting doesn't especially help), where as the seed-head is seen as delicate and beautiful: representing time passing - seeds gently floating along on the spring breeze etc...
In folk stories blowing on a dandelion seed-head will determine what time it is, how long you will live, when you will marry (this year, next year, sometime, never) and how many children you'll have etc.

I've seen seed-head designs on t-shirts, greeting cards, coasters, mugs, as stencils for DIY home decorating, on wrapping paper, and on textiles.

I recently received this email form my friend Pat:

Hi Rebecca
Have you seen this design by Royal Copenhagen?

We were in Keswick last weekend in a cafe having lunch. There was a gallery above the cafe and I went upstairs with my friend to have a browse. There was this vase with the dandelion design - £635!! I told my friend and the lady in the shop about your project - she very kindly cut the pages from her catalogue so that i could give it to you. The design is very unusual and what surprises me most is that the flower doesn't feature - just the seed-head and the leaf. Apparently it is quite an old design and has been produced for years.

I have found a dandelion leaf in a design on a Mornflake Superfast Oats packet - only the leaf and not the flower or seed-head (it's in the background along with oats, honesty, ribwort plantain, wild carrot, shepherd's purse, goosegrass, hogweed and a vetch).

Historically the dandelion is St Brigid's flower. Brigid is one of Ireland's earliest recorded saints and along with St Patrick is one of Irelands most famous saints. It is thought she was born sometime between 452 and 456 CE in Faughart near Dundalk in Co. Louth.

It's believed she died on 1st February 524 - so her feast day is celebrated every year on the 1st February. The dandelion is known at St Brigid's flower because it is the first flower of spring.

As it goes, I haven't found an image of St Brigid that shows a dandelion too - i'm still searching.

The dandelion lights its spark

Lest Brigid find the wayside dark.

And Brother Wind comes rollicking

For joy that she has brought the spring.
Young lambs and little furry folk
Seek shelter underneath her cloak.

Winifred Mary Letts (1882 - 1972)

With further searching i've found that the dandelion also symbolises desire, sympathy, affection returned and can mean love me.
Finding out what it symbolises in Japanese culture has proved a little harder, but it seems to mean similar things: faithfulness, happiness and is also known as love's oracle.

Thursday, 25 March 2010


I spent the last two days at Yorkshire Sculpture Park looking for bumblebees (I'm doing a residency there over the next year looking at native bee species - bumble and solitary - plus we are setting up bee hives to observe honey bees too).

I managed to collect dandelion leaves on both days for the dandelion diary, plus I got this close up shot of a dandelion just beginning to open up.

I have a blog for that project too (because i have nothing better to do with my time):

Friday, 19 March 2010

First Dandelion

I decided to skive work this morning with the weather being so mild and sunny and spent a couple of hours at my allotment.

On the way there I went through Avenham Park alongside the Ribble. I saw my first dandelion flower in full bloom facing the sun. There was also lots of Coltsfoot flowers, a few Daffodils and a lot of Ramsens coming up already. There was a solitary dandelion in full bloom in Miller Park by the Ribble under the Chestnut tree avenue the council have just massacred (diseased my arse). It looked very lonely in all the devastation.

Incredibly I also saw two House Martins - my first of the year. It seems very early to me.

The dandelion leaves here are from Avenham Park. I did get a shot of the dandelion in flower - only i took it on my crappy Lomo and i expect it'll take months before i develop the film, plus no doubt it'll be blurred too.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Japanese Dandelion Definition

I found this definition to help me find Japanese dandelions while i'm there:

Family: Asteraceae

Genus: Taraxacum

Species Epithet: japonicum

Kansai-tanpopo. Dandelion

Perennial herbs. Leaves, oblanceolate or linear-lanceolate, 10 - 30 cm long, 3 - 5 cm wide, entire or variably lobed, usually with 5 or 6 pairs of triangular lateral lobes, sometimes pinnatifid to pinnatipartite; petiole green, sometime reddish, with or without a wing. Flowers March to May. Scape green or reddish, densely floccose at base of head. Head 2 - 3cm in diam., with 30 - 100 florets (average 80). Involucre green or dark green, 12 - 15 mm long at flowering. Exterior bracts appressed, 2/5 - 3/5 as long as involucre, densely villose on margin, with or without a small corniculate appendage to ca. 1.5 mm long; outermost bracts oblong-lanceolate to ovate-oblong, 3 - 5 mm long, 1.5 - 2.5 mm wide. Ligules yellow, 15 - 16 mm long, 2 - 2.5 mm wide. Style and stigma black. Pollen uniform in size and exine structure. Achenes mostly straw coloured, rarely dark brown, ovate, 3 - 3.5 mm long, ca. 1.5 mm wide, apex spinulose and tuberculate, smooth near base, cone conical, 0.5 - 0.8 mm long. Beak 5 - 8 mm long. Pappus white, 5 - 7 mm long. Sexual.
Sunny ruderal habitats such as roadsides and edges of paddy fields; below 500m.

Very helpful - thanks.

The image here is of a British dandelion (not Japanese). Hopefully i'll come back from my trip with lots of new images of Japanese dandelions.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Japan Prep

I ordered my Japan Rail Pass today - in exactly 4 weeks I go on my trip to Japan.

I also got my spare battery for my camera in the post today, so I won't need to worry that it goes flat during the trip while i'm taking thousands of shots. I'm going to take my Polaroid SX70 too (my favorite camera) - plus if i have room i might take my pinhole 100 (but it's quite bulky and i might leave it at home). I've ordered films for it ready, in case i take it. You can't have too many cameras...

All my accommodation is booked too. Kyoto was the most difficult to find somewhere (i wanted a small ryokan) with it being blossom season - but after a day of emailing enquiries out i have found one near the station.

There's still a bit of planning to do, but i'm nearly there.

Sunday, 14 March 2010


I just got back from a 2 hour session of digging up weeds on the allotment.

It's been a lovely week - sunny weather and blue skies - and all the plants are beginning to come up - the celandines are already in flower in the park and there was a pretty little daisy on the allotment (i didn't have the heart to pull it up, so it's still there). As I walked along the bank of the Ribble I saw my first dandelion bud ready to burst open. All the dandelions are growing and getting stronger - it won't be long now....

I don't seem to have any photos of dandelion buds and I didn't have my camera with me - so this image doesn't really match.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Place Beyond Place Symposium

Tanpopo Tour of Preston 28th April 2010

I have been asked to lead one of the artist tours of Preston city in the afternoon of the symposium.

The Place Beyond Place Symposium has been developed by In Certain Places for urban planners, artists, public art commissioners, architects, urban designers and people with an interest in the future of cities.

The morning will feature presentations by artist and founding director of cSPACE Lorain Leeson and geographer Tim Creswell, Professor of Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London.

My Tanpopo Tour will take you round the weed hotspots of the city revealing how plant species from all around the world have come to settle in the city.

To find out more and to book your place please go to the Place Beyond Place website.