It was a very respectable spring day here today with a temperature of 18°c. On my walk in the woods I started a rabbit. It reminded me that I still have to practise walking gently through the forest. Years ago I would bash my way through the forest sending wildlife willy-nilly before me. I am better now, but it still takes a conscious effort to be at one with nature. Oh, that I could walk like an Indian.
Today’s wildflower is the very first flower that blooms here in the spring. Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is a member of the Sunflower Family (Asteracceae). It is a handsome flower and you will find it now in bright yellow splashes next to roadsides and in waste places.
It is a plant that seemingly has two identities. It produces its flowering stems at this time of the year while other shoots will develop the leaves much later after the flowering stems have died down. An old name for Coltsfoot was Filius ante patrem (the son before the father), because the dandelion-like flowers appear and wither before the broad, sea-green leaves appear.
Because of the time delay between the flowers dying and the leaves appearing, you might not associate the two as belonging to the same plant. The leaves are very distinctive and are said to resemble a colt’s foot, hence the name of the plant. I will try to remember to show a photograph of the leaves later in the year.
Other common names for this plant include Coughwort, Hallfoot, Horsehoof, Ass’s Foot, Foalswort, Fieldhove, Bullsfoot, Donnhove, and the common French name is Pas d’âne.
The botanical name, Tussilago, means ‘cough dispeller’ and the plant has been known since ancient times as one of the most popular of cough remedies. In Paris, the Coltsfoot flowers used to be painted as a sign on the doorpost of an apothecary’s shop.