DandilionsI know people for whom the mere mention of dandelions sends them running for a trowel, a shovel or a bottle of weed killer, but I'm going to explain how wrong they are. If you are a motorhead, you'll probably agree with me if you just read a bit further...
Actually, I've never understood what gardeners have against dandelions anyway, they have a pretty blossom, they are edible, and good for the ecology of the garden... but I've discovered a better reason to like dandelions.
TiresWhat motorhead doesn't love tires? Show me a motorhead who isn't excited by tires and I'm probably looking at a boater or a snowmobiler... anyway, most motorheads love to think about tires, and motorcyclists are nearly obsessed by them. Probably twice as much as car enthusiasts are. I figure the smaller your contact patch with the road, the more interested you are in tires.
So what has a motorcyclists enthusiasm for tires got to do with dandelions? Well, you might be riding on them some day soon. Yes, that's right... tires made from dandelions. That's no some futurists speculation, Continental tires has developed them to the point of road testing!
Do you remember picking dandelion flowers as a child, or did you have an Aunt (like I did) who bribed you to pull them out of the garden? You might remember the sticky, bitter whitish substance that the flower and leaf stems exude. That milk has been modified (if that's the right word) by the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) in Germany to resemble the latex exuded by rubber trees. Dandelions can apparently be made to produce latex that is indistinguishable from the latex produced by the much slower growing rubber trees.
So... how would you feel about Taraxacum Tires?
Dandelion TiresWhat a fabulous idea, making rubber from a fast growing plant like dandelions! Rubber trees are delicate and expensive to protect from pests, but dandelions grow willingly in poor conditions in all temperate climates. While genetically modified organisms slipped into our food without proper labeling is generating a lot of bad press and negative consumer response, I think modified dandelions that make rubber might be good thing. Since dandelions, despite their flowers, reproduce asexually, there appears to be little risk of laboratory dandelions cross breeding with wild dandelions.
However it works out, I'm glad to hear there is hope for a sustainable rubber industry and I'll be happy to know my tires come from dandelions!
Random Facts1. Entire plant is edible, but most people only find young green leaves palatable.
2. The root has been used for its diuretic properties, and one of the folk names for the plant is piss-a-bed.
3. Despite their pollinator attracting flowers, some species reproduce asexually.
4. Their deep tap root enables them to bring nutrients from deep in the soil, which makes them good neighbors for other plants.
5. Several species are cultivated as crops for human consumption.
6. Dandelions have been around for roughly 30 million years.... about 28 million years longer than us.
More LinksWikipedia on Dandelions (Taraxacum) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taraxacum
Reuters on the rush to Dandelion Rubber: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/20/us-dandelion-rubber-idUSKBN0GK0LN20140820
Rubber and Plastic News on Dandelion Rubber: http://www.rubbernews.com/article/20140925/NEWS/140929964/conti-begins-making-tires-made-of-dandelion-latex
2014 GreenTech Awards, Dandilion Tires: http://www.continental-tires.com/www/tires_de_en/themes/news/meldungen/pr_2014_02_19_greentec_en.html
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