I’ve wondered before about what happens to a dandelion between it flowering and becoming a dandelion clock so thought I’d observe one in our ‘lawn’ and see what happened. This mini photo blog is the result!
Day 1 – 3: The flower opens for just two or three successive days, closing up at night.
Day 4 – 8: The flower no longer opens during the day and by Day 8 it’s clear that the yellow ray florets are starting to dry out and form a sort of cap on top of the developing, white pappus
Day 9 – 16: nothing much seems to happen for several days then the ‘cap’ falls off and the developing pappus is more clearly visible between the involucre bracts
Day 17 – 20: Suddenly there is a beautiful, fragile dandelion clock. It doesn’t last long, though – the tiny sails attached to each achene soon carry their loads away.
By Day 20 the flower has largely finished its job, dispersing its achenes well away from the parent plant where they won’t compete with either this, or their siblings, for resources.
What strikes me most about the whole process is the transience of the flowering period; important as dandelions are as an early nectar source, you need an awful lot of them to maintain a continuous supply. The pollinators in and around my front garden and allotment must be happy!