Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
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Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
Table of Contents

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 01
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 01)  On 15 March 2002 we spotted these coltsfoot wildflowers growing on the side of the road.  They were the first wildflowers of the season that we came across.  Coltsfoot, a spring wildflower, which grows north of a line from New Jersey to Illinois, bloom from March through May.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 02
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 02)  The coltsfoot is a member of the Composite or Aster family, meaning that it is not one flower, but a composite made up of many smaller flowers that form the "flower" we see in this photo.  The outer bright yellow array is made up of many thin ray flowers.  The inner darker yellow disc is also made up of many individual flowers.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 02a
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 02a)  This is a close-up of the visiting wasp who stopped by at the "coltsfoot diner" for lunch, and was busily going from one small flower to another.  The wasp's lunch is paid for by providing pollination services.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 03
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 03)  The coltsfoot is a native of Europe, which was imported to the United States to treat coughs (tussis is Latin for cough).  The leaves of the coltsfoot were used as an ingredient in herbal tobacco, which was smoked as a cure for asthma.  Coltsfoot tea, sweetened with honey, was used for colds and asthma.  Even the flower stocks of the coltsfoot were used to make "syrup of coltsfoot", which was recommended for treating chronic bronchitis.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 3a
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 3a)  This enlarged photo (approximately 12 times actual size) of the coltsfoot's central disk clearly shows some of the individual flowers and unopened buds.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 04
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 04)  The flowers of the coltsfoot appear long before the leaves.  The leaves (not shown here) are basal and grow upright, much like a dandelion's leaves; but the coltsfoot's leaves are sparsely toothed and more rounded and heart-shaped.  The undersides of the leaves are white and hairy, and are said to resemble a colt's foot, which led to the common name.  These coltsfoot are about 4 inches high, and according to the literature, they can grow to 18 inches in height, though we have not seen them that tall.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 04a
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 04a)  In this photo we get a good side view of the upper coltsfoot "flower", with its "bowl" or involucre from which the ray and disc flowers develop.  Coltsfoot have only one bloom on each stem.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 04b
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 04b)  In this enlarged photo of the coltsfoot, we can see the developing flower stocks and the characteristic red scales on the more mature stocks.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 05
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 05)  Due to an extended cold period, this coltsfoot did not bloom until the 3rd of April; but again, in our area it was the first flowering wildflower of the year, as far as we know.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 06
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 06)  We found this photo to be quite interesting.  Judging by the extended disk flowers, the top coltsfoot bloom appears to be more mature, and the ray flowers are curling downward.  The ray flowers of the coltsfoot in the lower left are curling upward, while those on the newly opened coltsfoot to the lower right appear quite fluffy.  This photo also gives us a good view of the peeling appearance of the flower stem.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 06a
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 06a)  This is another photo of the different stages of maturity of the opening coltsfoot flowers.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 07
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 07)  These coltsfoot flowers have pushed their way up through the gravel on the side of the road.  Note that no coltsfoot leaves are present at this time.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 08
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 08)  This is a close-up side view of the coltsfoot.  Note that the flower bud in the lower left of the photo appears to have already developed as the flower stalk emerged from the ground.  Also note the more fully developed bud on the stalk in the upper center of the photo, and the vertical striations on the flower stalks.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 09
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 09)  This is a close-up look at one of the composite coltsfoot flowers, which are one inch in diameter.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 09a
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 09a)  In this bee's eye view of the disk flowers of a coltsfoot, we can see several that have opened.  Each appears to have four petals and one stamen.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 10
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 10)  This is another small patch of coltsfoot that was growing on the side of the road.  The coltsfoot flower in the upper right is getting ready to go to seed.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 11
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 11)  This is a closer look at the coltsfoot flower that has begun to wither (upper right), which happens prior to going to seed.  A disc flower bloom can be see in the bottom left coltsfoot.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 12
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 12)  The coltsfoot flower on the upper left has formed its puffy seed ball.  We have noticed that once the seed balls form, the stem once again seems to stand nearly upright.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 13
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 13)  This is a closer look at the fluffy seed ball of a coltsfoot.  (The wind was blowing when I took this photo, so I had to hold it steady with my fingers.)
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 13a
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 13a)  Unlike the fluffy seed ball of a dandelion, the coltsfoot seed ball retains its flower parts, making it easy to identify the coltsfoot.  The coltsfoot also has a depression in the top of its seed ball.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 14
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 14)  The top depression in the coltsfoot seed ball is not evident in this semi-top view.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 15
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 15)  We have also observed that after the first growth of coltsfoot have begun to go to seed, a second growth of coltsfoot flowers appear which are shorter and smaller than the first growth.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 16
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 16)  In this photo we get a good comparison of the size difference between the first and second growth of coltsfoot.  These second growth coltsfoot flowers are caged in and dwarfed by the flower stems of the first growth.  There are still no discernable coltsfoot leaves.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 17
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 17)  Another spring has arrived, and as expected, the first wild flowers we spotted were the coltsfoot.  The only other spring growth we spotted before the appearing of the coltsfoot, were the pussy willows, daffodils, and green tufts of chives, but the first flower always seems to be the coltsfoot.  This is the second day of growth since the coltsfoot sprouted from the ground.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 17a
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 17a)  One of the interesting features of the coltsfoot are the reddish colored scales that grow on the stem and the reddish colored sepals that surround the yellow ray flowers.  We have found that the reddish color seems to be much more pronounced when the coltsfoot flowers just begins to open.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 18
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 18)  Another very interesting characteristic of the coltsfoot that differs from other composite flowers is that the disc flowers begin to bloom before the ray flowers completely open.  With most other composite flowers of the Aster family, the ray flowers open first.  Each tiny disc flower has five petals and one pistil.  From this photo we cannot determine the number of stamens.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 19
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 19)  This is another coltsfoot bloom that is not fully opened, and already we can see one fully opened disc flower and several enlarged disc buds that are ready to open.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 19a
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 19a)  In this angled view of a coltsfoot bloom we can see a fully open disc flower with enlarged buds on both sides and to the left a fully opened ray flower.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 20
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 20)  Each coltsfoot bloom in this cluster is solitary and terminal.  This is also only the second day of growth.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 21
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 21)  On 29 Mar 2006, while taking our three mile hike to pick up our mail, we spotted the first wildflowers of the year.  As usual, they were coltsfoot.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 22
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 22)  As a way of introducing the beauty of another spring, the coltsfoot have pushed their way up through the sun-warmed gravel along the side of the road.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 23
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 23)  New buds are sprouting up alongside the already blooming coltsfoot flowers.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 24
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 24) On 14 April 2011, we took this and the following photos of a patch of coltsfoot, the first blooming wildflower of the season.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 25
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 25) This is a closer look at this patch of coltsfoot.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 26
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 26) On 3 May 2011, about three weeks after we saw the first coltsfoot blooming, and all of the flowers had gone to seed, the first coltsfoot leaves began to appear. After the flowers have died out, the only way to recognize the location of the coltsfoot is by the distinctive patches of leaves.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 27
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 27) This is another view of the coltsfoot leaves. Other common names for coltsfoot are: cough-wort, foal's foot, son-before-father and English Tobacco, which derived its name from using the leaves as a healthier substitute for regular tobacco.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 28
(Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) - 28) We saw these newly sprouting coltsfoot in a drainage easement off the side of the road on 20 March 2012. Since the drainage easement was rebuilt a few years earlier, we have seen the coltsfoot spreading farther and farther down the ditch, apparently from seeds being blown or washed down the slope.

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