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Tussilago farfara - L.

Common Name Coltsfoot
Family Asteraceae or Compositae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards The plant contains traces of liver-affecting pyrrolizidine alkaloids and is potentially toxic in large doses[222]. These alkaloids have not proved toxic at low dosages in tests and there is no suggestion that this plant should not be used medicinally[238]. Contraindicated during pregnancy and lactation [301]
Habitats Damp habitats, frequently on alkaline clays, in hedgebanks, roadsides, wasteland, often as a pioneer, and on dunes and shingle in coastal zones[200].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Norway south and east to N. Africa, western and northern Asia.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Tussilago farfara Coltsfoot

Tussilago farfara Coltsfoot


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Tussilago farfara is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5. It is in flower from February to April, and the seeds ripen from March to May. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, flies. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Cineraria farfara, Farfara radiata, Tussilago alpestris, Tussilago umbertina.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Meadow; Hedgerow;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Oil
Edible Uses: Oil  Salt  Tea

Flower buds and young flowers - raw or cooked[46, 183]. A pleasant aniseed flavour[K], they add a distinctive aromatic flavour to salads[9]. Young leaves - raw or cooked[9, 46, 183]. They can be used in salads, added to soups, or cooked as a vegetable[238]. The leaves have a bitter taste unless they are washed after being boiled[179]. An aromatic tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves and flowers[183]. It has a liquorice-like flavour[238]. The dried and burnt leaves are used as a salt substitute[102, 183]. The slender rootstock is candied in sugar syrup[183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antitussive  Astringent  Bitter  Demulcent  Diaphoretic  Eczema  Emollient  Expectorant  
Skin  Stimulant  Tonic

An effective demulcent and expectorant herb, coltsfoot is one of the most popular European remedies for the treatment of a wide range of chest complaints[254]. It is widely available in health food shops. The leaves are commonly used in Europe, though the flowering stems (which contain higher levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids) are preferred in China[254]. They are rich in mucilage and are the main parts used, though the root is also sometimes employed[4, 244]. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids have a toxic effect upon the liver, but are largely destroyed when the plant is boiled to make a decoction[254]. Some caution should be employed in the use of this remedy - the flowers should not be used except under professional supervision, the leaves should not be used for more than 4 - 6 weeks at a time, the herb should not be taken whilst pregnant or breast-feeding and it should not be given to children under the age of six[254]. Modern research has shown that extracts of the whole plant can increase immune resistance[254]. In a Chinese trial 75% of patients suffering from bronchial asthma showed some improvement after treatment with this plant, though the anti-asthmatic effect was short-lived[254]. The leaves are harvested in June and early July, the flowers are harvested when fully open and the root is harvested in the autumn. All can be dried and used as required[4]. The plant is antitussive, astringent, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, stimulant and tonic. It is widely used in the treatment of coughs and respiratory problems[4, 7, 9, 13, 21, 54, 165, 176, 218] and is often candied so that it can be sucked as a sweet[4]. The plant is of particular use in the treatment of chronic emphysema and silicosis, helping to relieve the persistent cough associated with these conditions[244]. Coltsfoot is particularly effective when used in combination with liquorice (Glycyrrhiza species), thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and wild cherry (Prunus serotina)[254]. A poultice of the flowers has a soothing effect on a range of skin disorders including eczema, ulcers, sores, bites and inflammations[7, 238]. A bitter, tonic and diaphoretic preparation can be obtained from the root[7].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Compost  Oil  Soil stabilization  Stuffing  Tinder

The soft down on the underside of the leaves is used as a stuffing material[53, 54]. When wrapped in a rag, dipped in saltpetre and dried in the sun it makes an excellent tinder[4]. Plants have an extensive root system and are used to stabilize banks[200]. The leaves are a valuable addition to the compost heap[200].

Special Uses

Dynamic accumulator  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in most soils when grown in full sun[14]. It prefers a moist neutral to alkaline soil and will also succeed in partial shade[238]. Plants are hardy to about -29°c[238]. Coltsfoot is a very tough plant that is more than capable of looking after itself. When well sited its roots will spread very freely sending up new shoots at some distance from the clump even if growing amongst dense weed competition[K]. This can make it a problem weed in gardens[200], so either choose your site with care or find some means of restraining it such as by planting in a large tub that is buried in the ground[K]. The rhizomes can lay dormant in the soil for many years, emerging when the soil is disturbed[200]. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is rhizomatous with underground stems sending roots and shoots along their length [2-1].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - the plant does not usually require help with spreading itself around, but if required the seed can be sown in situ in early spring or autumn. Division of the roots is very easy and succeeds at almost any time in the year. The divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

Matthew Richardson ([email protected])   Thu Mar 23 2006

I believe that the reference to Tussilago farfara being used as a salt substitute are incorrect, or at leats misquoted. the two references are to American texts, and in America coltsfoot is the common name for the Petasites family, which IS used as a salt substitute. Certainly, dried and scorched Tussilago ssp. don't have the salty taste that Petasites plants do when treated in the same way.

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