Urospermum dalechampii

This looks like a big dandelion, but it is a lovely lemon-yellow, often with a black centre, and I like it because it brightens up the roadside verges – and because of its historical connections. It’s a member of the Compositae family, which means that the flower head is made up of many ray-florets, tiny flowers with a long strap-like ray at one side. The centre is often black, and the outer florets often reddish-brown on their underneath edges.

A Mediterranean perennial plant, not found to the north of the Ardèche.

The young leaves can be used raw in salads: like dandelion they are quite bitter but a few will jazz up a bland lettuce, or you could follow Jane Grigson’s advice for dandelion leaves and add diced bacon, croutons, and chopped boiled egg.

So, to the history. It’s in the name: Urospermum is from the shape of the seed, but dalechampii is because it was described by the botanist and doctor Jacques Dalechamps (1513-1588) in his Historia generalis plantarum in 1586,

Jacques Dalechamps

which described 2,731 plants, the greatest number of any book then available.  Dalechamps was then practising medicine in Lyon, but had studied at the University ofMontpellier, just 16 years after Nostradamus (Michel de Notredame, 1503-1566) was expelled from there for having been an apothecary, by the very man who was later to become Dalechamps’s teacher: Guillaume Rondelet.  By that time Montpellier had already been a centre for herbal and then medical training for about 500 years: the school became a University in 1289, only  32 years after the Sorbonne.  I’ll be coming back to this topic because of the large number of plants first described byMontpellier graduates.


For the music link, back to the colour – it’s the Neville Brothers’ Yellow moon from the 1989 album of the same name. For K, and I hope this brings back some memories of New Orleans.



Filed under Urospermum

5 responses to “Urospermum dalechampii

  1. I’m wondering why being an apothecary was an offense–I’ll need to look that up. Maybe it had to do with suspicion of witchcraft? Now Big Pharma wants no competition, but then? Puzzling. But oh, the Neville Brothers. Aaron and I are about the same age, and I loved this group in my youth when they were getting started. Then in 1999, when I returned from Africa, I lived in New Orleans again–on Valence Street, where the Nevilles still live, and by then my son S. had started doing sound, and he worked for Aaron a few times and they really liked each other immensely. This is the jazz family I feel closest to–although the Marsalis family is also dear to me because I taught for a while at the New Orleans School of Creative Arts with Ellis, and I actually taught Wynton drama–and he was brilliant at it.

    • The quick reply to your first query seems to be that Nostradamus was seen by Rondelet to be a member of a ‘manual trade’ – expressly forbidden in University entrance rules (along with not being a Catholic, or being illegitimate). So that seems like straightforward professional class exclusion – just as, for example, I had great treatment from an acupuncturist in the UK, but she could never have got a job in the National Health Service. But I think the whole story is more complicated: for example, Rondelet’s speciality was fish anatomy (and he was setting the rules for doctors?!). I will be looking into the University of Montpellier some more.
      Right, to fun and the Neville Brothers. Much respect to you, Kendall! I cannot even imagine what it is like to have known those brilliant musicians so well, and as for working with Ellis Marsalis, and teaching his son…..Me, I just have the records. And images of New Orleans which rise up from them, seeming like a whole new imaginary country, outside America.

      • Living in New Orleans in the 70s and 80s, we felt we were in another country–not imaginary, but definitely outside America. Most of America shared that perception. I’m hoping to get back this coming October, for the first time since Katrina.

  2. P.S. The link doesn’t work for me. But I went to youtube and played it just because you reminded me how wonderful it is.

  3. Ceridwen

    I’m sure you know them but there are a fabulous couple of books called (in English) ‘Beloved Son Felix’ and ‘Journal of a Younger Brother’, both being composed from the letter-journals of two young men who went to study medicine in Montpellier in the 16th century. They wrote home to their family back in Basle, who were keeping an anxious watch on their sons. Of course they got up to all the things students get up to as wellas sweating blood over their studies and going out collecting plants.
    I have the books in translation but I imagine they are easily obtainable in French too..

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