Ontario Weeds: Colt's foot

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Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds, Order this publication

Table of Contents

  1. Name
  2. Other Names
  3. Family
  4. General Description
  5. Stems and Roots
  6. Flowers and Fruit
  7. Habitat
  8. Similar Species
  9. Related Links

Name: Colt's-foot, Tussilago farfara L.,

Other Names: tussilage pas-d'âne, pas- d'âne, tussilage

Family: Composite or Aster Family (Compositae

General Description: Perennial, reproducing by rhizomes and by seed. Plants apparently of two types: (1) more or less leafless stems bearing flower heads in early spring (March to June), and (2) very short stems bearing large leaves in summer.

Photos and Pictures

Colt's foot (A - flowering shoots in early spring; B - flower heads; C - flower heads in seed in late spring, with young leaves).

Colt's foot (A - flowering shoots in early spring; B - flower heads; C - flower heads in seed in late spring, with young leaves).


Colt's foot, vegetative (leafy) stage in summer and fall.
Colt's foot, vegetative (leafy) stage in summer and fall.

Colt's foot.

Colt's foot. A. Flowering stage: portion of a rhizome producing a shoot with several eafless stems and bright yellow flower heads in early spring.
Colt's foot. A. Flowering stage: portion of a rhizome producing a shoot with several eafless stems and bright yellow flower heads in early spring.
B. Vegetative stage: short stem with 3 leaves in midsummer.
B. Vegetative stage: short stem with 3 leaves in midsummer.

Stems & Roots: Flowering stems 5-50cm (2-20in.) high, gray-woolly, with numerous short (1-1.5cm, 2/5-3/5in.) grayish to dark purplish bracts; each stem bearing a single flower head; Short, non-flowering stems producing normal leaves begin to emerge as the flower heads reach maturity. Leaves on long, erect petioles, broadly heart-shaped, usually 7.5-13cm (3-5in.) long by 10-20cm (4-8in.) wide, occasionally much larger if in very fertile soil, bright to dark green to bluish-green and hairless on the upper surface, white woolly on the undersurface, and palmately veined (main veins branching from the tip of the petiole); margins inwardly scalloped to variously and irregularly toothed, the tips of the teeth often purplish.

Flowers & Fruit: Flower heads at first cylindric, expanding to 3.5cm (1-2/5in.) wide when fully open; involucre same colour as bracts on stem, 8-15mm (1/3-3/5in.) long; ray florets bright yellow, numerous, narrow (about 1mm, 1/25in. wide), slightly longer than the involucre, and much longer than the pappus; disc flowers in centre of head, yellow, short and rounded; seeds produced only by ray florets, disc florets sterile; flower heads maturing in late spring to early summer, resembling dandelion heads but their pappus (parachute) is much finer and denser. Flowers from March to June.

Habitat: Colt's-foot was introduced from Europe and has been naturalized in forests, fields, disturbed and waste places and along roads, rivers, lakes, ravines and drainage ditches in urban and rural areas throughout southern and eastern Ontario.

Similar Species: In its flowering stage, Colt's-foot can be distinguished from Dandelion by its several to many purplish bracts on the flowering stem. After flowering, the vegetative plant can be distinguished from young plants of Burdock by its perennial rhizome system and its broadly heart-shaped leaves being mostly palmately veined.

Related Links

... on general Weed topics
... on weed identification, order OMAFRA Publication 505: Ontario Weeds
... on weed control, order OMAFRA Publication 75: Guide To Weed Control

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