Sunday, March 27, 2011


Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) -- © Dave Spier

At a distance, the flowers resemble dandelions. Close-up, the flowers resemble, well, dandelions. In fact, this alien wildflower is a relative of the dandelion. If it weren’t for the leaves (or more apparently the lack of them in early spring), the yellow flowers of Coltsfoot could pass for dandelions. Both are in the Composite, or Aster, Family.

If you’re inclined to get down on the ground and look at the succulent stem of Coltsfoot, you’ll notice that it is scaly. On the other hand, perhaps you won’t want to get down on the ground because it grows in damp soil along streamsides, banks, ditches, roadsides and waste places. Each plant usually appears as a yellow clump with several flower heads.

The green leaves appear later in spring, after the flowers have gone to seed, and the leaves continue to grow through the summer. Someone thought the leaves, which are somewhat heart-shaped but angular and toothed, resembled a colt’s foot. Don't ask; just use your imagination. They can reach a width of seven inches.

A cough syrup can be made by boiling fresh leaves and adding sugar to the extract according to the Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. Dried leaves can be steeped to make tea. If the dried leaves are burned, the ash can be used as a salt substitute.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A very nice educational post. Thank you.