Coltsfoot

Tussilago farara

Colts-foot

The Song of the Coltsfoot Fairy

The winds of March are keen and cold;

I fear them not, for I am bold.

I wait not for my leaves to grow;

They follow after: they are slow.

My yellow blooms are brave and bright;

I greet the Spring with all my might.

(by Cicely Mary Barker)

I only saw a couple of these beauties in March, barely open. The one above was March 2012, and the ones photographed below on April 1st 2013 were still quite small. They certainly need all their might this Spring!

Coltsfoot

The name (Huflattich in German) comes from their hoof-shaped leaves that appear later and grow to a tremendous size. They can be used in all sorts of herbal remedies, including cough sweets; the “tussilago” part of the name comes from the Latin for “suppressing a cough”. (Ever heard of “Coltsfoot Rock“?)

The next photo is not too clear as the forest floor was quite dim, but here you can see the flower head in more detail –  pollinating insects crawl over the tiny little male florets within the bloom which contain nectar and give off pollen, then they fly to the next flower and use the female outer ray petals for landing, where pollen is brushed over the stigmas. Normally the Coltsfoot is an important early source of nectar and pollen for bees, but I have only seen one bee this year so far. However, the outer petals close over the central florets in wet and cloudy weather, and the plant therefore also self-pollinates. Double safe!

Coltsfoot2

Do you see this plant in your part of the world?

(And if anyone has some better photos of the flower head, I’d love to see them!)

😀

36 thoughts on “Coltsfoot

  1. I love to see things coming up even if it’s just a bunch of weeds. Just two days after the snow melted off the garlic is shooting up, the onions are reviving and the leeks are going on their second year of growth. I’m running a bit of a trial to see if they’ll get larger and sweeter than with a single season of growth.

  2. Nice profile of this plant Cathy. Hope the bees are finding something else as a nectar source. I am unfamiliar with Coltsfoot (and Coltsfoot Rock) but a the USDA plant distribution map does list it in my area, but apparently it is invasive in some areas of the US.

  3. Hi Cathy, we have Huflattich here – but I haven´t seen it yet 🙂 It´s getting warmer and the sun is shining brightly this weekend. Have a wonderful Sunday! Uta

  4. “Huflattich” – a modest but beautiful little spring flower! I remember my “Oma” cooked
    “Huflattichtee” with honey for a bad cough. It was a good household medicine.
    The poem is very lovely.

  5. Coltsfoot grows as a wildflower here, but it’s thought of as a weed in gardens and agricultural areas. It is pretty though – and I think the bees will be needing all the nectar they can get when they emerge from their extra long hibernation this year.

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