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Dandelions: Be Careful What You Wish For

June 06, 2002

Re "Concern Grows in Weed War," June 1: Having just spent the past hour pulling knotweed and digging dandelions from my lawn, I feel obliged to comment on Emily Green's excellent article about lawn chemicals. I have been tracking connections between 2, 4-D and human and pet illnesses for many years and am pleased to see The Times give this front-page coverage.

This spring I have repeatedly seen a TV ad where some suburban man, eyeing his neighbor's perfect lawn, says, "I hate dandelions!" Now, I like a nice lawn as much as the next person, and I dig plenty of dandelions out of my lawns, but hate? "Hate" seems a little strong for dandelions. I wonder if the chemical companies haven't pulled a fast one on us. They promote "complete" fertilizers, billed as "turf builders." These contain ample amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but here in California we can generally grow excellent turf just using nitrogen fertilizers.

Excessive phosphorus and potash encourages the growth of broadleaf plants such as clovers and dandelions at the expense of the grasses. Then they sell us some "weed and feed" laced with 2, 4-D, that chemical kissing-cousin of Agent Orange, to kill off our "weeds."

I long to see the day when the homeowner with a few dandelions and daisies in her lawn is considered progressive. So, too, I eagerly await the day when a front sidewalk littered with seeds from a "messy" female tree (pollen-free) is likewise an indicator of the owner's wisdom, sophistication and consideration for others.

Tom Ogren

San Luis Obispo

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It never ceases to amaze me how so many would rather have a yard full of poisoned plants and lifeless soil than see a few little yellow and white flowers sprinkled across the lawn. Every time you or your kids or your dog walks across that lawn, those poisons get tracked onto your carpets. And the residue not tracked in washes off into the nearest creek or gutter and flows to the ocean. We worry about foreign terrorists but are capable of our own biological warfare.

Susan Robin

Agoura

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You helped clear up a mystery I have pondered for many years. When I was a kid, dandelions were delightful. I remember not only enjoying the splashes of color around my neighborhood but, especially, blowing away the seeds. I remember picking bouquets of dandelions to bring home to my mother. Somehow, between then and now, dandelions became an enemy. I never understood why. Now I do.

Shira Paskin

Long Beach

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