Garden Tales: Coltsfoot


Free food, well nothing is completely free, but food that you do not give someone money for, or food that you do not have to grow is a bonus. There are many plants that are edible and not all of them are tended by humans.

Coltsfoot or Tussilago farfara L is one of the first plants to flower after the winter. They come out about the same time as the crocuses and add their bright yellow to an otherwise still brown landscape.

The name, Tussilago, comes from the Latin tussis, meaning cough. This plant is aptly named as coltsfoot has long been used as a cough syrup.

Coltsfoot is a member of the Asteraceae family and is a perennial with an unusual growth habit. A single flower head appears in the early spring and coltsfoot is often mistaken for a dandelion.  It is fairly simply to identify, though, as there is little else growing at the time it first appears.

The seed head of the coltsfoot plant does bear a resemblance to the seed head of a dandelion, however, the flower of coltsfoot usually has died down by the time the dandelion appears. The leaves appear after the flower stem dies. This aids in identification.

A native of Europe, Coltsfoot thrives in North America in waste spaces and along roadsides. It does well in my backyard which is mostly rock and gravel.

Coltsfoot is relatively prolific spreading by underground rhizomes. April is when this one makes its first appearance, sometimes popping up through the snow. The plant does not produce seeds as prodigiously as other unwelcome plants, unwelcome by some that is.

This morning I enjoyed a few flowers picked fresh and washed from the plants in the backyard. When I eat a plant that I wild crafted, especially one growing so close to home; one that is not endangered, the connection with Nature is immediate and powerful.

A word of caution, while there is no danger in consuming an occasional flower or three, in excessive dosages coltsfoot can interfere with existing antihypertensive or cardiovascular therapy. Avoid prolonged use, but do not abandon it all together as like so many other plants we reject and call weeds, coltsfoot has a purpose and the flowers are tasty.

They could be added to a salad or mixed into a pancake batter. Nature provides for our needs in many ways and coltsfoot is one.

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Comments 9 comments

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for such interesting tip.

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick Author

You are welcome.

sree1987 profile image

sree1987 6 years ago from India

I don't know much about these evergreen herbs. But thanks for writing about this. It was a nice information.

Smireles profile image

Smireles 6 years ago from Texas

Thanks for telling us about coltsfoot.

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick Author

Thank you both for dropping by.

Maggie-May profile image

Maggie-May 6 years ago from the Island of Cape Breton to the Eastern Shores near Halifax, NS

I always wondered about those flowers! Thanks for sharing! My kitchen window sill is polluted with small containers containing the beginning of what I hope to be a wonderful garden experience...all thanks to your wonderful informative Hubs!!!!!!


Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick Author

My pleasure, happy gardening.

rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 6 years ago from NY

The only herb that I know that comes free is comefrey, lol OK no more horrible jokes I promise. This is an excellent hub and I couldn't agree more, nature has so much to offer and we too often pass up so many wonderful plants as weeds. I look forward everyday exploring and learning of what naturally grows on my property and how I can use it. Thanks for sharing.

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick Author

You are welcome, comfrey is a good addition to a compost pile. Thanks for commenting.

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