Seiyou tanpopo: Taraxacum officinale

You can say dandelions are truly familiar plant and see them almost everyday from spring to autumn. Taraxacum officinale, one of dandelions, belonging to the chrysanthemum family are a native European plant and have become a naturalized Japanese plant. They grow in waysides and so on. They are different from the native species in that its bract is warped in flowering season. They bloom yellow or white flower all the year around except winter.

Taraxacum officinale are classified in the chrysanthemum family, sympetalae, vascular plant. The chrysanthemum family plants are known as the most evoluted and divided plant. Peculiarity of the chrysanthemum family plants is that gathering small flowers look like one flower. About 400 species of Taraxacum mainly live between the Temperate Zone and subtropics and about 20 species of them live in Japan.

Taraxacum officinale originally lived in Europe, but spread to each place of Japan after the importation as food in the Meiji Era. They live in road, wayside and wasteland. It seems that they resist competition because they live in place that other species grow. They have many systems, for example, the small type living in lawn, the big type for food and each of them grows according to the environment in Europe. The reason why they spread all around Japan is many varieties of them was introduced again and again. The type lives in lawns, the type grows in wastelands, the type lives in meadows where tall plants live are different in strategy, so, it is better that you think they are separate each other if they live adjoining place.

Taraxacum officinale bloom flower for a long period regardless of season. Its flower stalk is straight, don’t grow branches, grow capitulum to apex. Its aggregate fruits are spread by wind. If they are cut and lost the over ground part, they regenerate the leaves by nutriment in the root. They take apogamy, so seeds ripen by oneself in spite of pollen. Therefore , they have strong propagative power and widened the habitat. At the area lingering a rural landscape, the native species have a power. So, it can be said that taraxacum officinale are a indicator species for urbanization. In Europe or the Middle East, taraxacum officinale have been eaten for a long time. Though they are a little bitter, they be eaten for salad. Moreover, its dehydrated roots are known as a substitute for coffee and have effect on an increase in one’s appetite, improvement in function of the liver and so on. In a part of U.S.A., people utilize its flower petals for materials of the wine. As a medicinal herb, they work on uric disease, anemia, jaundice, neurosis.

In Kochi, we can watch taraxacum officinale easily. It may they are most popular plant.

Nazuna: Shepard’s Purse

As one of the Japanese customs, there is a special rice porridge called “Nanakusagayu”. The reason why it is called “Nanakusagayu” is that the rice porridge includes 7 species of wild grasses. Nazuna is one of the wild grasses.

Nazuna’s height is 20 to40 cm as an adult organism, and the flowering season is from February to June in Japan. It has a lot of flowers, which are 3 mm in diameter. “Nazuna” is the Japanese name, and as another name, it is called “Penpengusa” or “Shamisengusa”. These name is related to Samisen (Japanese traditional stringed instrument). As a English name, it is called “Shepherd’s purse”, and the scientific name is “Capsella bursa-pastoris”.

In Japan, there are other species of plants which have “nazuna” at the end of their names. They are Gunbainazuna (Thlaspi arvense), Mamegunbainazuna (Lepidum viruginicum) and Inunazuna (Draba nemrosa) and so on, but their genetic names are not same as Nazuna’s one. Except for Nazuna, there are three species that have “Capsella” as their genetic names in Japan. They are Hosominazuna (Capsella bursa-pastoris Medik. var. bursa-pastoris ), Haatonazuna (Capsella sp.) and Ruberanazuna (Capsella rubella). They belong to Capsella genus, but they are an introduced species, so it shows that the species which belongs to Capsella genus is originally only Nazuna in Japan.

Nazuna is the wild grass that is distributed on temperate zone and subtropical zone of all over the world. In Japan, it is found on the whole country from Hokkaido to Okinawa, and occurs in fields, plantations and wayside, everywhere.

The life of Nazuna is as following. First, Nazuna’s seeds sprout at the beginning of winter. Then, they spend the winter with a special form called “Rosette”. When the spring comes, the stem starts growing. Finally, the flowers come out in early summer.

Winter is the season that is cruel for almost living things to live. Nazuna lives through the severe season. The reason why it can bear is its special form in winter, and it is called “Rosette”. Rosette shows a form such as flat-spreading leaves on the ground. The advantages of this form are that plants can stand the coldness of winter by pasting on the ground, and that plants can get much sunshine by spreading its leaves widely.

Nazuna is what is called a weed, so it doesn’t seem to have a special connection with other animals or plants in particular. Though it is not a biological connection, in Japan we sometimes gather Nazuna to eat. As a popular use, it is used for the Nanakusagayu mentioned above. It is also used for medicine. First, dry Nazuna in shade. Then, boil down, brew or char it. If you do the above, it will have effects for alleviation of fever, stomachache, high blood pressure, and a lot of illness. Though Nazuna is a weed, it has a close connection with Japanese.

If you would like to see Nazuna, take a walk in spring, and soon you can get it. Nazuna is a weed, and it is found anywhere. It is a familiar plant to us.