Coltsfoot


Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Also known as Claywort, Coughwort, Butter Bur, Horsehoof. This is an early spring, cool season perennial that is found primarily in the north-eastern United States.


These flowering weeds have a similar appearance to dandelions. Flowers surface early in spring. When blooms begin to die back, weed leaves begin to grow and become fully developed in late June to mid-July.


Leaves are a deep green in color with distinctive purple veins. They are thick and rubbery with rigid scalloped edges. Having a waxy appearance on top, the underside of leaves have white, fuzzy hairs.

Photo: Barbro Rutgersson

The shape of these leaves can appear similar to velvetleaf or cocklebur. The leaves can also resemble the appearance of a horse's hoof. This is where the name Horsehoof came to be.


This weed has no stems - a petiole branch holds flowers. Petiole is the stalk attaching the leaf to stem. Petiole has much of the same internal structure of the stem. The combination of the leaves (which grow 6-8 inches) and the flowers form a canopy that can grow anywhere from 6-18 inches.


This is a competitive weed and will grow even if mixed with other competitive weeds and grasses. Originally from Europe, North Africa and Asia, if efforts are not made to eradicate weed it will eventually take over, even displacing native species. This weed grows in colonies and will survive in bad soils even where a lot of gravel is present, like roadsides.


It spreads by seed and rhizome. For removal dig weed out. Other options include cut back with a hoe or mow over it if present in lawn. Remember these latter methods will require regular management.


Opinions on various non-selective post-emergent herbicides differ as to effectiveness. Glyphosate comes in first as being the most effective.





FYI tidbits about Coltsfoot


    The term coughwort comes from the therapeutic ability that weed has to help coughs, sore throats and bronchial problems. Tussilago stems from the Latin word 'tussis', which translates to cough.


    Although used for medicinal purposes, this weed is noxious and never should be ingested because of toxic compounds. Studies concluded different findings as far as weed being carcinogenic.


    If not a knowledgeable herbalist, it is highly recommended to never experiment at all with this weed. If in your garden - eradicate it.





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