An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide –

Posts tagged “Asteraceae

Coltsfoot Flowering

4-22-19 coltsfoot_U1A6685Coltsfoot – a Dandelion look-alike, a harbinger of spring, and a medicinal as well as invasive plant. This early-blooming flower can quickly be distinguished from a Dandelion. Coltsfoot usually flowers and often goes to seed before its leaves appear (ignore young leaf in photo!), whereas a Dandelion’s rosette of leaves are apparent when the plant flowers. In addition, the flower stems of Coltsfoot are covered with woolly hairs and scaly bracts while Dandelion stems are smooth.

Coltsfoot, named for the shape of its leaves, is of Eurasian origin, but was introduced into North America as a medicinal plant over a century ago (for its expectorant properties). It has long since escaped culture and become a widespread weed, invasive in some cases, especially in clay and moist soils. A pioneer plant, Coltsfoot often appears in disturbed areas, and with its dense broad leaves it chokes out native plants. It’s a sun lover, though, and therefore tends to gradually disappear as trees and shrubs move in and create dense shade.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Coltsfoot Flowers A Welcome Source of Nectar for Bees

4-25-14  coltsfoot 125Even though they are not rare and they are not especially known for their beauty, the dandelion-like flowers of Coltsfoot beckon like no others. To humans, the brilliant yellow petals of this member of the Aster family are a bright beacon in the relatively drab brown world revealed after the snow melts. But they are an even more compelling sight for bees at this time of year, for these flowers are a very early source of nectar in the spring, when there are few other wildflowers blooming.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Coltsfoot Blooming

4-9-13 coltsfoot IMG_7600You’ll find this early bloomer, Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), growing in some of the most barren spots on earth – roadsides that are awash with salt from the winter and that are nutrient poor, to say the least, but if sun and moisture are available, these dandelion look-alikes often thrive. Emerging this early in the spring, when temperatures can still dip down below freezing, has its challenges.  Hairy scales on the flower’s stem help keep the plant relatively warm.  Although the flower head is initially angled downward, when it blooms it straightens out and greets the sun.  During the night, and on cloudy or cold days, the flower closes, conserving heat.

American Lady Larva

The American Lady larva is very distinctive with its branched spines and white bands across its abdomen.  One of its favorite foods is Pussytoes, a member of the Aster family.  The larva feeds inside a shelter it makes by tying up several leaves with silk.  In the photograph, the larva has incorporated the flower heads of Pussytoes into its shelter.  Not only is the larva feeding and growing inside this 1 ½ ”-long  cavity, it also shed its skin.  To see an adult American Lady butterfly, go to .  Soon after the larva forms a chrysalis and pupates, a butterfly emerges and starts its migration south for the winter.