What a great overview of Coltsfoot.. I am on the medical side and collect a years supply for drying each spring. I had been careful and never moved any to the farm, preferring to wild forage it, but I think I might have to dig a dozen this spring and move it onto my own land to make sure it stays easily available to me.
Coltsfoot is one of the first flowers of spring. Photo: Stefan.lefnaer, Wikimedia Commons
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is, in some areas, the very first flower of spring. Its charming yellow flowers emerge very early, often in February in mild climates, yet as late as May in cold ones.
The bright yellow blooms resemble dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinale). Also, after they finish flowering, they also bear fluffy white seed heads like those of a dandelion. Add to that the fact the two plants belong to the same family, the Asteraceae, and you definitely have the potential for confusion.
In fact, many people do indeed take coltsfoot for a dandelion, at least while it is blooming. However, the two plants are in fact easy to tell apart.
Coltsfoot blooms on leafless stems that seem to arise directly from the soil. Its leaves only appear after the flowers have faded…
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Yes, they are similar, at a quick glance (like while driving by a clump on the roadside; ) but then you realise the yellow’s not quite “right” – just a little too bright, they’re growing much too closely together and their silver seed heads are WAY thicker/ fuzzier than a Dandelion ever though of being (like you can’t even catch a glimpse of a Coltsfoot seed through that silken globe of parachutes-to-be… ; )
Many years ago, they just showed up in my flower bed and have not become seriously invasive and I love their cheerful announcement that Spring has truly arrived: )
And, like everything else in the garden, it is a useful plant…