Plant Name Coltsfoot  
Scientific Name Tussilago Farfara  
Family Aster  
Plant Type Perennial  
Start of Blooming Season February  
End of Blooming Season June


Coltsfoot is a plant in the aster family that is widespread across Europe, Asia, and North Africa, from Svalbard to Morocco to China and the Russian Far East. It is also a common plant in North America and South America where it has been introduced, most likely by settlers as a medicinal item. The plant is often found in waste and disturbed places and along roadsides and paths. In some areas it is considered an invasive species. Coltsfoot has traditionally had medicinal uses. However, the discovery of toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids in the plant has resulted in liver health concerns. The name "tussilago" is derived from the Latin tussis, meaning cough, and ago, meaning to cast or to act on. Tussilago farfara is the only accepted species in its genus, although more than two dozen other species have at one time or another been considered part of this group. Most of them have now regarded as members of other genera (Chaptalia Chevreulia Farfugium Homogyne Leibnitzia Petasites Senecio).

There are currently no commerical uses for coltsfoot. However; due to the nature of the root system of coltsfoot, the plant could hypothetically be used to stabalize soil along slopes.

Within the realm of rational and holistic medicine, Coltsfoot has been used in traditional herbal medicine and has been consumed as a food product with some confectionery products, such as Coltsfoot Rock. Tussilago farfara leaves have been used in traditional Austrian medicine internally (as tea or syrup) or externally (directly applied) for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, skin, viral infections, flu, colds, fever, rheumatism and gout. Other uses of coltsfoot included the soft down on the underside of the leaves being used as a stuffing material. When wrapped in a rag, dipped in saltpeter and dried in the sun coltsfoot leave have made an excellent tinder.

Please note that MIROFOSS does not suggest in any way that plants should be used in place of proper medical and psychological care. This information is provided here as a reference only.


Flower buds and young flowers were traditionally eaten raw or cooked with a slight anise-like flavour. The leaves have a bitter taste unless they are washed after being boiled. An aromatic tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves and flowers. The dried and burnt leaves were also historically used as a salt substitute.

Coltsfoot is widespread across Europe, Asia, and North Africa, from Svalbard to Morocco to China and the Russian Far East. It is also a common plant in North America and South America where it has been introduced. Coltsfoot grows in damp habitats, frequently on alkaline clays, in hedgebanks, roadsides, waste places, often as a pioneer, and on dunes and shingle in coastal zones.

Soil Conditions
Soil Moisture

Coltsfoot is a perennial herbaceous plant that spreads by seeds and rhizomes. Coltsfoot is often found in colonies of dozens of plants. The flowers, which superficially resemble dandelions, appear in early spring before dandelions appear. The leaves, which resemble a colt's foot in cross section, do not appear usually until after the seeds are set. Thus, the flowers appear on stems with no apparent leaves, and the later appearing leaves then wither and die during the season without seeming to set flowers. The plant is typically 8cm to 45cm in height. The leaves have angular teeth on their margins. Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.


Plant Height 8cm to 45cm
Habitat Fields, Roadsides, Waste places
Leaves Reniform Leaves
Leaf Margin Double-serrate
Leaf Venation Palmate
Stems Scaley Stems
Flowering Season February to June
Flower Type Small to Medium sized ray flowers
Flower Colour Yellow
Pollination Bees, Flies, Self Fertile
Flower Gender Flowers are hermaphrodite and the plants are self-fertile
Fruit Small Seeds
USDA Zone 4A (-31.7°C to -34.4°C) cold weather limit

The following health hazards should be noted when handling or choosing a location to plant coltsfoot:


The plant contains traces of liver-affecting pyrrolizidine alkaloids and is potentially toxic in large doses.

-Click here- or on the thumbnail image to see an artist rendering, from The United States Department of Agriculture, of coltsfoot. (This image will open in a new browser tab)

-Click here- or on the thumbnail image to see a magnified view, from The United States Department of Agriculture, of the seeds created by coltsfoot for propagation. (This image will open in a new browser tab)

Coltsfoot can be referenced in certain current and historical texts under the following eight names:

Coltsfoot can be translated into the following select languages:

Arabic حشيشة السعال Bulgarian подбел Chinese (Sim) 款冬
Croatian konjsko kopito Czech podběl Danish Følfod
Dutch klein hoefblad Esperanto   Estonian paiseleht
Finnish leskenlehti French tussilage German Huflattich
Greek   Hebrew שיעול Hungarian martilapu
Italian   Japanese フキタンポポ Korean 머위
Low Saxon   Lithuanian Ankstyvasis šalpusnis Norwegian Hestehov
Persian   Polish podbiał Portuguese tussilagem
Romanian podbal Russian мать-и-мачеха Slovak podbeľ
Spanish uña de caballo Swedish hästhov Tagalog koltsput
Turkish öksürükotu Ukrainian мати й мачуха Vietnamese cây khoản đông

The information provided in this conservation assessment has been provided by the Natureserve Database in conjunction with various federal, provincial, state, county, district, regional, and municipal governments as well as public and private conservation authorities. Information in this section is accurate from the last time this article was updated.
Coltsfoot has no conservation status as it is considered an exotic and or invasive species in North America.

The MIROFOSS database offers free printable garden tags for personal and non-profit use. These tags can be used to properly identify plant samples in a garden. Click on the tags shown on the the screen or -click here- to download a full size jpeg image for a coltsfoot identification tag; which can be printed on paper or used with a plastic laser printer.

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Description / Application USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 1: 70.
Description Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR
Folklore Wawrosh C.,"In Vitro Cultivation of Medicinal Plants" cited in Yaniv Z. and Bachrach U., Eds "Handbook of Medicinal Plants", The Hawthorne Medical Press NY Lond. 2005
Biology Dickinson, T.; Metsger, D.; Bull, J.; & Dickinson, R. (2004) ROM Field Guide to Wildflowers of Ontario. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum,
Image Rendering USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Environment National Audubon Society. Field Guide To Wildflowers (Eastern Region): Alfred A. Knopf. pp 415-420 ISBN 0-375-40232-2
Physical Identification National Audubon Society. Field Guide To Wildflowers (Eastern Region): Alfred A. Knopf. pp 415-420 ISBN 0-375-40232-2
May 14, 2015 The last time this page was updated
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