Skip to main content

Common and Russian Dandelions: Nutrition, Latex, and Rubber

Linda Crampton is a writer and experienced science teacher with an honors degree in biology. She enjoys writing about science and nature.

Edible and Useful Weeds

Dandelions are often considered to be annoying weeds, especially when they grow on lawns. Some people deliberately cultivate common dandelions in order to experience their nutritional and culinary benefits, however. The plants have another interesting benefit in addition to their edibility. They produce a thick liquid called latex, which can be turned into rubber. The Russian dandelion has the potential to become an excellent source of commercial rubber.

The use of Russian dandelions to produce rubber could soon become very important. Natural rubber is a valuable commodity because it has useful properties that synthetic rubber lacks. Unfortunately, there's a problem with the current supply of the material from the para rubber tree. The Russian dandelion could be the answer to this problem.

The common dandelion plant, or Taraxacum officinale

The common dandelion plant, or Taraxacum officinale

A Plant Family

Dandelions belong to the plant family known as the Asteraceae. This family was previously known as the Compositae. The latter term refers to the composite nature of the flower, which is really an inflorescence made of many smaller flowers, or florets.

Nutritional and Culinary Benefits of the Common Dandelion

The scientific name of the common dandelion is Taraxacum officinale. The plant has bright yellow flowers that are made of many tiny florets. The dandelion’s name comes from the French phrase “dent de lion”, which means "lion's tooth". The phrase refers to the deeply divided leaves of the plant.

The leaves make a nutritious but bitter salad green. Cooking the leaves reduces their bitterness. They are a good source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) as well as vitamin C. Vitamin C is destroyed by heat, however. The leaves are also rich in potassium, calcium, and iron. They are a diuretic, a substance that increases urine production and fluid removal from the body.

Dandelion flower heads are sometimes used to make a wine. The flowers are mixed with oranges, lemons, sugar, water, and yeast (natural or purchased) and then fermented. Raisins and cloves are sometimes added to the mixture. The flowers are also dipped in a flour mixture and fried to make fritters. Some people make an infusion or tea from the flower heads or from the leaves. The roots can be cooked like a root vegetable or roasted and ground to make a coffee extender.

As is the case with any wild plant, it's important to be absolutely certain of a dandelion's identification before using it as food. Multiple plants in the family Asteraceae have flowers that resemble those of dandelions. Another point to consider is that plants picked for food should be grown in an area that is free of pesticides and pollution.

Be Careful!

Common dandelions are edible and are often used as food. Some other species of Taraxacum are also eaten. It's unknown if all dandelion species are edible, however, or if all parts of every species are edible. This is one reason why plant identification is essential when foraging for food.

Common Dandelion Latex

If the flower head of a common dandelion is removed or if the flower stem is broken, a milky white fluid exudes from the wound and coagulates after being exposed to air. The fluid is known as latex.

A dandelion’s latex is made by specialized cells called laticifers, which form long chains inside the plant. The laticifers are perforated to form latex vessels, through which the fluid travels.

Latex is a complex, sticky mixture made of polymers and other substances dispersed in water. A polymer is a long molecule made of smaller molecules joined together. The components of latex include proteins, carbohydrates, oils, resins, and gums. It’s thought that the function of the material is to seal wounds and to protect the plant from insect attack and infection by microbes.

Latex is produced by other flowering plants besides the common dandelion, including the rubber tree. Most rubber today is made from the latex of the para rubber tree. The population of this plant is decreasing, however, along with the world's rubber supply. In several countries, people are planning to make rubber from the latex of the Russian dandelion, which is a relative of the common dandelion.

Latex From Plants

Researchers say that about ten percent of flowering plants produce latex. The exudate is generally white in colour but is sometimes colourless, yellow, orange, or red.

Producing Rubber From Taraxacum officinale

It’s possible to make rubber from the common dandelion. The process is sometimes carried out as a science experiment in schools. The experiment should be avoided by people who are allergic to latex. It’s thought that since dandelions are very different plants from rubber trees, it’s unlikely that anyone with rubber latex allergies will also be allergic to dandelion latex. In fact, dandelion latex is believed to be hypoallergenic. It's probably best to wait until this is absolutely certain if someone knows that they have an allergy, however.

To make the rubber, part of a finger is coated with dandelion latex. Several freshly-picked dandelions are needed to collect a sufficient quantity of the secretion. The latex is allowed to coagulate to form rubber and is then carefully rolled off the finger. (Body heat helps the rubber to form.) The dandelion rubber is stretchy but quite delicate. It's fun to play with the material. The product isn't good enough to use commercially, however. Luckily, the rubber from Russian dandelions is suitable for commercial use.

Natural Rubber Production From a Tree

The para rubber tree is also known as the Brazilian rubber tree and has the scientific name Hevea brasiliensis. In traditional rubber production, the tree is wounded with a diagonal cut and the dripping latex is collected. (The tree recovers to be tapped again in the future.) The coagulation process is sped up by the addition of formic acid. The moist chunks of rubber are pressed into sheets and dried. The drying process often involves the rubber being placed in a smokehouse. The video below describes how natural rubber is made.

In commercial rubber production, liquid latex is collected from the rubber tree and is shipped in air-tight containers to factories. Placing ammonia in the collection tanks prevents coagulation. In the factories, the latex is shaped into sheets or placed in molds and solidified.

Sulphur and heat are often used to "vulcanize" rubber. The chemical reaction between the rubber and the sulphur makes the rubber stronger and resistant to temperature changes. Without vulcanization, rubber tends to melt in hot weather and become brittle in cold weather.

The Para Rubber Tree: A Species in Trouble

Most of the South American population of the para rubber tree has been destroyed by fungus. The tree now grows mainly in Southeast Asia. The Asian population of the tree is decreasing too, however, due to a combination of factors. These include fungal infection, political instability, loss of habitat, and possibly climate change.

Rubber is used to form thousands of different products, but the majority is used to make tires. As the number of cars and other vehicles in the world is increasing, the demand for rubber is also increasing. Another problem is that natural rubber is becoming more expensive. A synthetic product can be produced, but vehicles require at least some natural rubber in their tires to provide elasticity. Some types of tires must be made entirely of natural rubber.

The Rubber Plant

Some people grow a plant called Ficus elastica in their home or garden. The plant is sometimes known as a rubber plant or a rubber tree. It does produce a latex that can be turned into rubber. However, it's not the same "rubber tree" that's used to produce commercial rubber.

History of Russian Dandelion Rubber

A high-quality rubber can be produced from Taraxacum kok-saghyz, the Russian dandelion. Some researchers say that Russian dandelion rubber is as good as the rubber produced from the para rubber tree. Russian dandelions look much like common dandelions and are native to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, two republics that were once part of the Soviet Union.

During the second world war, the rubber supply to parts of Europe and the United States was blocked. Russian dandelions were used to make rubber instead. The extraction of latex from the plants was an expensive process, however. Another problem was that the latex coagulated very soon after its release from the plants. Once the para rubber supply was restored, the process of making rubber from dandelions ended.

Young rubber trees (on the left) growing beside rice

Young rubber trees (on the left) growing beside rice

Extracting Latex From the Species Today

Recently, researchers have once again become interested in making rubber from Russian dandelions. The cultivation of the plant (and perhaps of other latex-producing plants) may be the solution to the world's rubber supply problem. The roots produce most of the latex.

Improved methods of latex removal have been created to tackle the problem of rapid coagulation after a dandelion is wounded. Researchers are also trying to increase the yield of latex and to decrease the cost of rubber production.

The latex is removed from sliced roots by solvent extraction and/or the use of a centrifuge and then processed into rubber. The exact details of the process are being kept secret by the companies involved, however. There could be a lot of money at stake in the production of dandelion rubber.

The Russian dandelion is native to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. This map shows the republic of Kazakhstan, with the republic of Uzbekistan to the south and Russia to the north.

The Russian dandelion is native to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. This map shows the republic of Kazakhstan, with the republic of Uzbekistan to the south and Russia to the north.

Increasing the Latex Yield

Scientists have found a way to block the quick coagulation of Russian dandelion latex, increasing the amount of the secretion that can be removed. The latex coagulates when exposed to air due to the rapid production of polymers, a process called polymerization. An enzyme called polyphenoloxidase (or polyphenol oxidase) is responsible for the polymerization.

Scientists can stop the action of polyphenoloxidase by infecting the dandelion with a genetically engineered virus. The virus removes the section of genetic code in the dandelion's DNA that is responsible for the production of the polymerization enzyme. The genetically altered plants provide four to five times as much liquid latex as the plants that are not genetically altered.

The scientists involved in the research are said to be breeding the altered plants and trying to create large populations of dandelions that lack the problematic segment of DNA. I haven't seen any recent reports describing how their efforts to breed improved dandelions are going. This might be due to the desire to keep certain discoveries a secret.

Some researchers are trying to improve the yield of latex from the Russian dandelion in a different way. They look for natural strains of the plant that produce slightly more latex than other strains and then selectively breed the high-latex producers with other high-latex producers. They repeat this process in each generation of the plant.

Dandelion Rubber

The video above gives an overview of Russian dandelion rubber production by a German company. People in other countries are also growing the dandelions on an experimental basis. Although the process of producing rubber from the plant has interested many people, it needs to be economically viable in order to be a commercial success.

Inulin Production From Russian Dandelions

Russian dandelions are being cultivated for other reasons besides their ability to make latex. They contain a large amount of inulin, a carbohydrate that is being added to a growing number of processed foods. Some people confuse inulin with insulin, but they are different substances. Inulin is a carbohydrate while insulin is a hormone that regulates the blood sugar level. At the moment, most commercial inulin is produced from chicory, a relative of dandelions.

Inulin is a type of fibre. It isn't digested in our stomach and small intestine, but it is digested by some of the helpful bacteria in our large intestine. It's classified as a "prebiotic" rather than a probiotic. Probiotics contain useful bacteria; prebiotics support their growth.

Inulin is mildly sweet but doesn't raise the blood sugar level. This makes it useful for diabetics. It can improve the taste and texture of foods and is sometimes used as a sugar or fat substitute. The substance also promotes calcium absorption and is used in a medical test that assesses kidney function. Another benefit of the chemical is that it can be fermented to make ethanol, which can then be used as a fuel.

Lovely and Helpful Plants

It seems that most people rarely think about dandelions, except when they’re annoyed when the plants appear where they’re not wanted. I think this is a shame. The plants have many uses, both for individuals and for society. In addition, the bright yellow flowers and white seed heads of the common dandelion and some of its relatives are attractive and interesting to observe.

The Russian dandelion and possibly some of its close relatives may well become very important economically in the next few years. In 2022, Goodyear (a notable tire company) announced that they are investigating creating a U.S. source of rubber from Russian dandelions. The members of the dandelion family are very helpful plants.


  • Nutrients in raw dandelion leaves from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)
  • Latex in plants from the USDA Forest Service
  • Natural rubber production from dandelions from the news service
  • Rubber from Russian dandelions from Wageningen University
  • Rubber and inulin from dandelions from Wageningen University
  • Wahler D, Gronover CS, Richter C, et al. Polyphenoloxidase Silencing Affects Latex Coagulation in Taraxacum Species from the Plant Physiology journal
  • Goodyear to develop domestic source of natural rubber” from PR Newswire

Questions & Answers

Question: Is rubber from Russian dandelions commercially viable? What would be the yield in kg/hectare and the production cost compared to the rubber from Hevea?

Answer: I don't know the yield or the production cost of rubber from Russian dandelions. You could contact someone involved in the production of the rubber to find out. They may not give you all of the answers that you would like, however, either because they are still trying to discover the answers themselves or because they don't want to share the knowledge because they are trying to start a business.

Question: What is the chemistry that is used for the formation of latex and inulin from dandelions?

Answer: This question would require a long article in order to answer it properly. These articles written by scientists may help you.

Information about the chemistry of dandelion latex

Information about the inulin pathway in Russian dandelion

© 2011 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 26, 2017:

Hi, Abbasi. The latex from Taraxacum officinale would need modification in order to make good rubber. Good luck with your endeavours.

Abbasi on November 21, 2017:

Hi Linda, thanks for sharing useful information about dandelions, we in Pakistan have wide distribution of Taraxacum officinale, and trying to extract rubber and inulin from this species of dandelion, if some know simple procedure for extraction of these substance, we will be greatfull if he/she share

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 08, 2013:

Thank you very much for the comment and the votes, eugbug. That would be a great use for dandelions!

Eugene Brennan from Ireland on October 08, 2013:

Well you learn something new every day! I wish I could turn all the dandelions in my yard into a set of tires.

Voted up and interesting!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 27, 2012:

Thanks for the visit and the comment, oscar.

oscar on August 27, 2012:

So interesting to learn about this thanks

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 30, 2011:

Hi, RTalloni. It is a challenge to get dandelions to grow where we want them to and prevent them from invading other areas, but like you I think that it's worth the effort! Thanks for the comment.

RTalloni on December 30, 2011:

So interesting to learn about this--thanks!

Knowing that dandelions are beneficial to have in our diets, as well as pretty in salads, I've tried to think of ways to cultivate them without having them take over all my other plants. Family and friends will no longer laugh at my ideas when I show them this! :)

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 27, 2011:

Thank you very much, natures47friend. Yes, I think someone - or some people - may make a lot of money in the future producing natural rubber from Russian dandelions!

Happy New Year to you too!

natures47friend from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand. on December 27, 2011:

Ok....sounds like we have become herbivores

Looks like we might see the next millionaire in dandelion latex

Brilliant hub! Voted up and awesome...what a fascinating topic. I was unaware that the world's rubber was on the decline.

Happy New Year.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 18, 2011:

I like eating dandelion leaves, and I'll try eating some dandelion root next summer. Thank you for the comment, Peggy.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 18, 2011:

We actually ate dandelion leaves and also roots (after I learned that they were edible) many years ago in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin where we had a half acre of land and many dandelions. Had no idea that rubber could be harvested from them. Such an interesting and useful hub! Thanks!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 18, 2011:

Thank you for the comment and the vote, KathyH. It will be very interesting to see how much rubber is produced by Russian dandelions in the future!

KathyH from Waukesha, Wisconsin on December 18, 2011:

Such an interesting hub, I had no idea rubber came from these, you learn something new every day I guess! :) Thanks for sharing, voted up and interesting!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 18, 2011:

Thank you, drbj! I appreciate your comment and the vote. So many people think of dandelions simply as weeds, when in reality they have many benefits to offer us.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on December 18, 2011:

I knew some folks eat dandelions which many of us just consider as weeds. But rubber? Who knew? Thanks for enhancing my dandelion education, Alicia, with this very informative and beautiful hub. Voted up, m'dear.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 18, 2011:

Thank you for the visit and the comment, KwameG. It's nice to meet you!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 18, 2011:

Hi, arusho. I suspect that the number of people growing dandelions - especially the Russian dandelion - will increase considerably in the near future! My local farmers market sells dandelion leaves in the spring and early summer, which I buy for salads. I've never tried eating dandelion flowers or roots, though. Thank you for commenting.

KwameG from MS on December 18, 2011:

Very interesting article indeed!, Thanks for the great article and smooth flow.

arusho from University Place, Wa. on December 18, 2011:

I didn't know dandelions had so many beneficial uses. We had a lot in our lawn, but have weeded them out so the lawn would grow. I know people use them in salads and we thought about harvesting ours, but wasn't sure if ours would be good in a salad. Great hub! Maybe I could grow dandelions and sell them to the latex industry!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 18, 2011:

Hi, Tina. Yes, genetic engineering is a bit scary because it may have unexpected consequences. Genetics is such a complex topic and we don't completely understand it. There's still much to learn. Even without genetic engineering, though, it seems that Russian dandelions will be very helpful in producing rubber! Thanks for the comment.

Christina Lornemark from Sweden on December 18, 2011:

Very interesting article! It is fantastic that it is possible to use Dandelions for extracting latex. Even though Dandelions are beautiful with their bright yellow color it is considered to be a weed. The only thing that sounds a bit scary to me is the genetically engineered virus. One never know how a virus behave and what the consequences might be if it comes out in nature.

Either way, this is a very interesting article and total news to me! Voted up, interesting,


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 18, 2011:

Thank you very much for the comment and for sharing, Pcunix! I appreciate your visit.

Tony Lawrence from SE MA on December 18, 2011:

So cool. I love learning stuff like this. Sharing this around!