Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is a perennial herb in the Asteraceae (sunflower) family native to North Africa, Europe, and parts of Asia. Coltsfoot is the only recognized species in the Tussilago genus.
However, over 24 other species have been considered part of this genus at one time or another. This perennial plant resembles a Dandelion when it flowers in spring.
Coltsfoot is a wild edible plant that is unusual because the flowers tend to bloom and die before the leaves appear, earning the plant the name “son before father” in ancient times.
Before matches were introduced, the plant’s felt-like cover, wrapped in a cloth and soaked in a saltpetre solution after drying in the sun, was considered an excellent tinder.
Coltsfoot is a slow-growing perennial with large, dark green leaves that are similar in shape and size to velvet leaves or cockles when fully developed.
However, the plant does not have the main stem. Instead, the petiole carries the leaves 10-20 cm above the ground. It often forms a complete canopy of leaves that covers the ground. Coltsfoot has very unique flower characteristics.
The bright-yellow flowers appear in early spring before the leaves appear. Common names include Sowfoot, Coughwort, Foalfoot, and Horsefoot.