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The Mast-Head: Spring's Messengers

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 17:41

There are many more dandelions in flower around East Hampton Village this spring than I can remember. This may be in part due to Village Hall’s decision to switch to no-toxin landscaping. But I also like to think it is in part the legacy of Matthew Lester, a young man who died way too soon, who loved nature and in particular, bees. 

Bees enjoy dandelion pollen, but are in trouble, too. The bright yellow heads appear early in the spring, at a moment when bees are emerging from their winter slumber and few other plants are in bloom. They are important, beekeepers say, but should be only part of the bees’ dietary intake over the course of a year. 

Although dandelions and other flowering plants that crop up on lawns might be marginal as bee food, there is another aspect to why they should be left alone. They indicate a toxin-free lawn that helps preserve other natural wildlife. Herbicides and pesticides end up in our drinking water. 

According to the Perfect Earth Project, 118 potentially harmful land­scaping and agricultural compounds have been detected in the eastern Long Island aquifers. Roundup, an herbicide regularly used to kill dandelions, and other chemicals kill marsh grass, too, and may be a cause of the region’s massive loss of eelgrass, which has been tied to the decline of bay scallops, winter flounder, and many other forms of life in the Peconic Estuary. Pesticides, not likely used on a dandelion-dotted lawn, have been linked to cancer and other illnesses in humans as well.

As far as flowers go, a dandelion may not be a thing of beauty, but as a sign that we care about what we pour on the earth, it is second to none.

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