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COLTSFOOT

Tussilago farfara

Daisy & Dandelion Family [Asteraceae]  

Flowers:
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Pappus: pappusZpossible (white, simple, shaped like a chimney-sweep brush)
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status
statusZnative
flower
flower8yellow
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZmany
stem
stem8round
stem
stem8hollow

4th April 2007, Bridgewater Canal, Boothstown, Wigan. Photo: © RWD
The flowers appear well before the leaves.


30th April 2007, Pennine Way, Bleaklow, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are at first only small.


27th March 2007, Tandle Hill, Slattocks, Chadderton, Manchester. Photo: © RWD
But right here: no leaves.


4th April 2007, Bridgewater Canal, Boothstown, Wigan. Photo: © RWD
Sun-reddened scales on the white woolly stems.


4th April 2007, Bridgewater Canal, Boothstown, Wigan. Photo: © RWD
The stems often are bent double like umbrella handles before the flowers open up.


27th March 2007, Tandle Hill, Slattocks, Chadderton, Manchester. Photo: © RWD


16th March 2007, Little Longstone, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
The ray florets are many and thin, like flattened wires.


4th April 2007, Bridgewater Canal, Boothstown, Wigan. Photo: © RWD
Note the even thinner stigma. Disc florets in centre are a similar colour to the ray florets on periphery as are their anthers and pollen.


27th April 2013, Blackleach Resr, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
The shiny mauve coloured sepals are numerous and may have a muddy-green central stripe, and covered in long cobweb-like white fibres that may weather off.


27th April 2013, Blackleach Resr, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
Getting ready to open once again, this time with the parachute hairs.


1st May 2007, Strines, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Tidy flat-topped seed 'clock' quite un-like those of Dandelion.


12th May 2010, Chesterfield canal. Photo: © RWD
Seeds long and cylindrical, differing from those of Dandelion.


10th May 2015, Nob End SSSI, Bolton, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The seed platform is flattish on top. Seeds have ridges.


4th April 2007, Bridgewater Canal, Boothstown, Wigan. Photo: © RWD
Wind-swept seed head.


21st May 2008, Bleaklow, Pennine Way, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Seed head with half the seeds dispersed.


4th April 2007, Bridgewater Canal, Boothstown, Wigan. Photo: © RWD
Un-like the leaves of Butterbur the leaves of Coltsfoot are, when young only, covered in a white 'Cobweb' that eventually comes off.


23rd June 2007, The Meadows, Irwell Valley, South Manchester. Photo: © RWD
Square leaf stems. Well after the flowers are gone the leaves will grow as tall and large as those of Butterbur and resemble those of Rhubarb and to a lesser extent those of Brazilian Giant Rhubarb and Chilean Giant Rhubarb.


23rd June 2007, The Meadows, Irwell Valley, South Manchester. Photo: © RWD
No 'cobwebs' left on leaf. One way to tell the difference between the leaves of Butterbur and Coltsfoot apart is that Coltsfoot leaf edges are slightly dentate or cusped, as if with bite-marks.


10th Aug 2012, Millers Dale, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Eventually the leaves grow up to c. 1.5m high.


10th Aug 2012, Millers Dale, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
And up to c. 0.7m across.


13th May 2015, Macclesfield Forest, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
Empty seed-head [focus stacked].


13th May 2015, Macclesfield Forest, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
The hollow stem of the flower, with cottony fibres.


COLTSFOOT RUST GALL


(Puccinia poarum)
 Galls and Rusts Menu

11th June 2016, Cronton ex-Colliery reserve, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
The Puccinia species of rust which affects Coltsfoot leaves (appearing on the underside of the leaves) is probably Puccinia poarum (differing species of Puccinia affect differing plants). The upper surface of the leaf goes a deep purple colour over a larger area, as can be discerned from below.


11th June 2016, Cronton ex-Colliery reserve, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
Puccinia poarum is bright orange (as are most Puccinia species) and forms a small raised pimple (of variable size) beneath the normal white webbed hairs of Coltsfoot but with mud-volcano-like openings. The upper surface of the affected leaf goes first purple (which you can see on the photo), then yellow and finally brown as the leaf dies.


11th June 2016, Cronton ex-Colliery reserve, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
Puccinia are plant fungal pathogens. The circular holes with white folded-back rims are the aecia (or 'cluster cups') - a specialised reproductive structure found on some rusts and smuts which produces and releases airbourne spores called aeciospores into the air - by which means it spreads from plant to plant. These rusts are necrophytic obtaining their sustenance from the dead tissues of its host organism. Puccinia poarum is found on at least 70 species of plants.


Uniquely identifiable characteristics : there is no other plant with the same appearance (as long as the flowers are visible).

Distinguishing Feature : The distinctive flowers.

Easily confused with : Butterbur when the flowers have gone and only the leaves are visible.

The flower stems are hollow and quite thick for the size of the plant, are covered in white felty hairs, and have very short stubby over-lapping scales, which can turn quite red after strong prolonged sunshine. The flowers have a distinct tendency to droop bending over double like umbrella handles before fully opening and standing upright. It is a very early flowerer, starting in January well before most Dandelions and continuing through March when Dandelions start appearing through to April.

The leaves are generally absent during flowering, appearing only before flowering then withering away before the flowers have bloomed. Frequently a white cobweb of hairs covers the leaves, but that soon disappears to reveal matt-green leaves with distinctive thin white veins, reddish beneath the leaf. The leaves are cardioid in overall shape with dentate edges - having several large-radius concave edges. Leaf stems appear to be square and reddish.

The flowers have both ray and disc florets. The ray florets being very numerous but wire-thin. The disc florets are a deeper shade of yellow bordering on orange. Between them is a haze of thin yellow stamens.

The seed head is, unlike a dandelion clock, at first flattened on top like a mushroom, with a distinctive inner brown circle; the seeds themselves, which unlike those of Dandelion, are long and cylindrical as well as more brown. The seed-clock may get weather-beaten into other untidy shapes more like windswept dandelion clocks. They were used as a stuffing for pillows.

An extract can be prepared from the roots of Coltsfoot. It is used as an expectorant for cough relief, and in the confectionery known as Coltsfoot Rock, which is in the shape of a Doric-fluted fawn-coloured stick about a centimetre in diameter and 10 centimetres long. It is sweet (with added sugar) and can be sucked like a stick of rock. Coltsfoot Rock, made to a traditional recipe, contains Parogoric (a camphorated tincture of opium), capsicum, oil of aniseed and coltsfoot extract at 0.0012% concentration as the active ingredients. Both a wine (Clayt) and a beer (Cleats) can be made with Coltsfoot root.

Despite belonging to the extensive Daisy Family, which usually contain highish levels of toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA's), Coltsfoot has a low PA content.

The name Coltsfoot refers to the shape of the leaf, which is in the shape of the footprint of a colt. The scientific name Tussilago is derived from the Latin Tussis meaning 'cough'; it is used in cough mixtures.

PYRROLIZIDINE ALKALOIDS


Both Senecionine and Senkirkine are poisonous Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids found in Coltsfoot. Senecionine is also found in a number of other plants such as Ragwort but is only a minor constituent in Coltsfoot. Both are hepatotoxic and can poison the liver if consumed and can act as indirect mutagens. Both are present in the leaves and flower stalks. Senkirkine is more mutagenic than Senecionine and most other Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids and occurs in Coltsfoot at greater concentrations. Senecionine is shown for comparison; it is better detailed elsewhere (see Tansy and Oxford Ragwort.

The Cinnabar moth, which in the caterpillar stage normally feeds on Ragwort to obtain its poisonous pyrrolizidine alkaloids, will switch to Coltsfoot as an alternative source. The Cinnabar moth uses the poisons as a predator deterrent.

SESQUITERPENOIDS


Other compounds present are the sesquiterpenoid glycoside isopetasoside and its aglycone (without the attached sugar molecule) the phytotoxin sesquiterpenoid isopetasol. Petasol and Isopetasol are potentially of use as herbicides. The only difference between Petasol and Isopetasol is the position of the double bond on the side chain. Petasol and Isopetasol also occur in Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) from which it derives its name.

Compare the above with the sesquiterpenoides Petasin and IsoPetasin which occur in Butterbur.


  Tussilago farfara  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Asteraceae  

Distribution
family8daisy family8dandelion family8Asteraceae

 BSBI maps
genus8tussilago
Tussilago
(Colt's-foot)

COLTSFOOT

Tussilago farfara

Daisy & Dandelion Family [Asteraceae]  

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