From Weeds to Wishes

Jeanne M. Lambin
6 min readMay 9, 2024


Colored iIllustration from The Caterpillars’ Marvelous Transformation and Strange Floral Food first volume, published 1679. By Maria Sibylla Merian. Depicting a Taraxacum, with the Calliteara fascellina moth and its caterpillar.
Plate 8 of The Caterpillars’ Marvelous Transformation and Strange Floral Food first volume, published 1679. By Maria Sibylla Merian. Depicting a Taraxacum, with the Calliteara fascellina moth and its caterpillar.

Behold the humble dandelion (aka Taraxacum), that ”tap-rooted, perennial, herbaceous plants, native to temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere.” Native to Eurasia and introduced from Europe to North America, the merit of dandelions is hotly debated. Weed? Wildflower? With some arguing for their eradication and others promoting their positive attributes.

I confess I’ve never understood why this cheery yellow flower was so much maligned — -excised from lawns, uprooted from sidewalk cracks, and generally not welcome at lawn parties.

As a kid, the one good thing about dreaded dandelion is that it was always okay to pick them. Not so with the neighbors tulips! I’m sorry Mrs. Morford!

Not only were dandelions a cheery punctuation mark, accenting otherwise uninteresting expenses of lawn, but they also transformed into something else entirely.

Behold the blowball

The happy yellow flower-heads matured into spherical seed orbs sometimes called blowballs or clocks. And in case you were wanting a more technical explanation, I see you, you budding botanist you (hah! See what I did there). These “clocks” contain many single-seeded fruits called achenes. Each achene is attached to a pappus, a poof of fine hair-like material which enables dispersal using wind and convective updrafts. Most only travel a short distance but some have been known to travel as far as 150Km/93 miles.

Perhaps you have been outside on a dandelion liberation day — where the air is filled with seeds floating around, seeds that are incredibly good at staying aloft, so good that they seem adept at eluding capture.

Dandelion Liberation Day by Jeanne Lambin

As a little kid, I was entranced by these elusive “creatures”. I once spent the better part of a morning attempting to capture a few of them, which is not as easy as it might seem. They are buoyed by air currents. Unbeknownst to me, in trying to apprehend them, whilst waving my little hands about trying to grab them, I created my own air current. I would be just about ready to close in and they would flutter away, as if trying to evade capture.

I persisted. And I finally caught one or two of these elusive creatures. Elated, I put them an old jar and poked holes in the lid. I put a small bed of grass at the bottom and a bit of a slice of American Cheese. I liked cheese, mice liked cheese, it seemed reasonable that a pet Dandelion might also like cheese.

Sketch drawing of a jar made with graphite and colored pencils. There are holes poked in the lid of the jar. Inside the jar is grass, a bit of American cheese, and two fluffy dandelion seeds.
Human-made. Drawing of the Captured Dandelion Seeds. Fun fact. They don’t eat cheese.

I returned to the jar only to discover that the Dandelion Seed (aka the creature) had not moved, nor had it eaten any of the cheese. I checked back regularly but nothing changed. I feared that I had killed it.

When my Dad returned home from work, I took the lifeless mote of a former flower to him. He very kindly explained to me that the Dandelion was not alive in the sense that I thought it was alive. I didn’t really understand how something that could float and move could not be alive. I released my captured dandelions back into the wild and pondered how something can be living in one sense, and not in another. I wondered how seeds could float and if they eat American cheese. I pondered a lot of things.

Which turns into wishes

It was later that I learned that Dandelions could also be used for wishes. Pluck a fuzzy flower from the patch, close your eyes, make a wish, and blow. If all the seeds detach from the bud your wish will come true.

Who knows when this practice first emerged. There is not a plaque standing somewhere in a field of dandelions memorializing the very moment that one was transformed from a flower, to a vector for wishes.

There is the saying, when you see a field of dandelions do you see weeds or wishes?

As a kid walking to school, as the school year drew to a close, our walks were filled with wishes. So many so that we did not have to be miserly with our wants. For a moment, the world was full of possibilities.

Sure there were the wishes that might actually come true — a new lunchbox or bicycle and then there were those that were perhaps probable but not possible — -to live on a farm, to be taller, and then those that were as improbable as they were impossible, whispered into the air and borne aloft on an air current of hope.

Black and whilte drawing of a dandelion shedding its seeds.

Both hopes and wishes are a net cast into the future. I read that when we hope, there is often a possibility that what we hope for will actually happen. When we wish, it is for something we long for but might not actually get.

When hope can feel inaccessible, we default to wishes.

I don’t know about you, in this world, as of late, my hope has felt rather brittle. So much feels so big, so impossible, it can be hard to hope, because it can be hard to see possibility. And perhaps this is why wishes were born, to make mutable the immutable, to change the unchangeable, to hope for the seemingly un-hopeable.

Somewhere, some time ago, someone, standing in a field held a dandelion made a wish and exhaled it into the world and watched it float away.

I love this ability that we have as humans to transform something so seemingly mundane into something magnificent. I love that this humble, unloved and often unwanted weed, chased from lawns and sidewalk cracks, somehow has the ability to transform from a mere weed to a vector of wishes. Buoyed first by our breath, and then by air currents, a floating mote of hope that might land on a stretch of grass or in a tiny fissure of dirt in a cracked and abandoned parking lot, and then take hold.

Because if we can, through a simple trick of the imagination, transform weeds to wishes, then maybe we can also transform or change things in this life we don’t think it is possible to change or transform.

There is the saying, when you see a field of dandelions do you see weeds or wishes?

What weeds do we want to transform to wishes?



Jeanne M. Lambin

I help people imagine, create, and live better stories for themselves, their communities, and the world.