Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tussilago farfara: flowers

Caution: invasive [Photo: Tussilago farfara flower.]Tussilago farafara, known in English as "coltsfoot" and in French as pas d'âne, is a perennial native to Eurasia. I had never seen it before and was intrigued by its apparent absence of leaves; apparently a rosette of broad leaves will emerge later on; their shape reminded whoever thought of the common names of a colt's foot or donkey's foot.

The Invasive Exotic Species Ranking for Southern Ontario rates coltsfoot as Category 4 ("Exotic species that do not pose a serious threat to natural areas unless they are competing directly with more desirable vegetation.")

Coltsfoot has traditionally been used medicinally, but is toxic in large doses. Also, European Journal of Pediatrics reported a case of an infant who developed hepatic veno-occlusive disease after regular consumption of what his parents thought was coltsfoot, but was actually Adenostyles alliariae, which shows the importance of being cautious about gathering and self-treating with wild plants.

I photographed these plants at the University of Toronto downtown campus on St. George north of College.

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