You could be forgiven for mistaking coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) for a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) from a distance,
especially if you didn’t know that coltsfoot is the earliest blooming wildflower in northeastern North America. Can you tell them apart when I put them next to each other?
Furthermore, coltsfoot flowers bloom without any foliage at all. Dandelions send up leaves first, and then the flowers bloom later.
And if you think back to your dandelion-picking days, you’ll remember that dandelions have a smooth, tubular stem that oozed a white, sticky sap when you picked the flower. Coltsfoot has a scaly stem.
Coltsfoot is a mud season flower, blooming before you can count on nice weather, usually in April around here, but this year–well, everything is early, and we scarcely had mud season. It blooms before bloodroot and liverwort, the two earliest native wildflowers that I know of. And according to my earlier post, it blooms about a week after the peepers are heard. In a more typical year, I think the coltsfoot bloom would overlap with the last of the crocuses and the first daffodils.
Invasive In Some Areas
I knew coltsfoot wasn’t a native plant, but I always thought of it as rather innocuous, always there but never taking over. In my research for this post today, I discovered that many states have branded it as an invasive plant. The Invasive Plant Atlas of New England says coltsfoot can crowd out native species. I wonder what species, in particular? The roots can go down 3m–almost 10 feet–so it would certainly be difficult to dig out. It is not listed as an invasive species in NY, but I couldn’t find an official invasive species list for NY state; if you know of one, please let me know.
Possible Liver Problems When Ingested
You may have heard of coltsfoot being used as a cough remedy. Before you do so yourself, please read the Coltsfoot Wikipedia article. Coltsfoot has been associated with liver problems and was banned in Germany until a special form of coltsfoot was bred for medicinal purposes.
I’m sorry to learn that coltsfoot misbehaves in some locales, as it is a sign to me that winter is truly over, and therefore a symbol of hope. Are you familiar with it where you are?
Posted for Wildflower Wednesday, created by Gail of Clay and Limestone, to share wildflowers/native plants no matter where you garden in the blogasphere. “It doesn’t matter if we sometimes show the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. It’s always the fourth Wednesday of the month!”