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Petasites japonicus - (Siebold.&Zucc.)Maxim.

Common Name Sweet Coltsfoot, Japanese sweet coltsfoot, Butterbur
Family Asteraceae or Compositae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Moist woods and thickets[58].
Range E. Asia - China, Japan, Korea. Naturalized in Britain.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Wet Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Petasites japonicus Sweet Coltsfoot, Japanese sweet coltsfoot, Butterbur

Petasites japonicus Sweet Coltsfoot, Japanese sweet coltsfoot, Butterbur


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Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late winter. Form: Spreading or horizontal, Upright or erect.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Petasites japonicus is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 1.5 m (5ft in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in flower in February, and the seeds ripen in March. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist or wet soil.


Nardosmia japonica.


Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; not Deep Shade; Ground Cover; Meadow; Bog Garden;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers;  Stem.
Edible Uses:

Leaf stalks - cooked and used like rhubarb[1, 2, 46, 116]. The stems can be up to 1.2 metres long[104]. They can be boiled and seasoned, pickled and used in winter soups or preserved in miso[183]. They can be boiled, dipped in cold water then peeled and baked - they have a pleasant fragrant taste[206]. Flower buds cooked or used as a flavouring[1, 22, 46, 61, 105]. A slightly bitter yet agreeable flavour[116, 206], they are much prized in Japan[183]. They can be eaten whilst still green with miso or boiled down in soy sauce[183]. The young flowering stems can be eaten cooked[206].

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Leaves (Dry weight)
  • 250 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 19.5g; Fat: 2.8g; Carbohydrate: 52.8g; Fibre: 19.4g; Ash: 25g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 1194mg; Phosphorus: 556mg; Iron: 2.8mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 917mg; Potassium: 12500mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 278mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.56mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.56mg; Niacin: 5.56mg; B6: 0mg; C: 56mg;
  • Reference: [ ]
  • Notes:

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.

Antiasthmatic;  Antispasmodic;  Expectorant;  Miscellany;  Poultice.

The plant (though the exact part of the plant used is not specified) is antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, expectorant and poultice[147]. A decoction is used in the treatment of chronic coughing and pulmonary 'deficiency', laboured or difficult breathing and asthma, constant sputum formation and pulmonary tuberculosis[147].

Other Uses


The leaves of the sub-species P. japonicus giganteus are used as umbrellas by Japanese children[187]. The leaf stalks can be used as walking sticks[206]. Plants can be grown as ground cover in damp shady places[206]. They are too invasive for most gardens and should only be used where they have plenty of room[208].

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Container, Ground cover, Massing, Woodland garden. Succeeds in ordinary garden soil[1], but prefers a deep fertile humus-rich soil that is permanently moist but not stagnant, succeeding in shade, semi-shade or full sun[200]. Requires a moist shady position[187]. Plants can be grown in quite coarse grass, which can be cut annually in the autumn[233]. A very invasive plant, too rampant for anything other than the wild garden[187, 200]. Its roots are very difficult to eradicate[200]. The sub-species P. japonicus giganteus has huge leaves up to 1.5 metres across on stems 2 metres tall[187]. It has a poorer flavour than the species type[206]. Sometimes cultivated in E. Asia as a food plant[1, 58]. Dioecious, male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Special Features:Attractive foliage, Not North American native, Invasive, Wetlands plant, Flower characteristics are unknown.


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Seed - we have no information on this species but suggest sowing the seed in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe or in early spring. Only just cover the seed and do not allow the compost to dry out. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. Division succeeds at almost any time of the year. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

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 NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Petasites albusButterbur21
Petasites frigidusSweet Coltsfoot, Arctic sweet coltsfoot, Arrowleaf sweet coltsfoot, Golden Palms Coltsfoot, Butterb21
Petasites hybridusButterbur, Pestilence wort03
Petasites hyperboreusArctic Sweet Coltsfoot21
Petasites palmatusSweet Butterbur, Golden Palms Coltsfoot, Sweet Coltsfoot, Butterbur21
Petasites saggitatusArrowleaf Sweet Coltsfoot21
Petasites speciosa 20
Petasites vitifoliusArctic sweet coltsfoot10


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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

Brian Blanthorn   Tue Mar 18 2008

I think this should have a hazard warning it contains alkaloids but so do a number of our very common foods Young leaves are also eaten ( cooked ) Cooking does seem to reduce this I do not pretend to be a exepert in this and I think could do with futher research when you reviw the info Heres what I have so far, http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=206 Quote xxx How does cooking affect alkaloid content in nightshade foods? Steaming, boiling, and baking all help reduce the alkaloid content of nightshades. Alkaloids are only reduced, however, by about 40-50% from cooking. For non-sensitive individuals, the cooking of nightshade foods will often be sufficient to make the alkaloid risk from nightshade intake insignificant. However, for sensitive individuals, the remaining alkaloid concentration may be enough to cause problems. xxxx Also lists many other plants like potatoe / tomatoes with alkaloid in them Another site with sensible info on "toxic" common everday food http://www.beyondveg.com/tu-j-l/raw-cooked/raw-cooked-1g.shtml A search with petasites japonicus toxicity cooking, or petasites japonicus cooking Individuals with arthritis can be affected by this Thanks for a truly excellent databace Brian Blanthorn

David Freeman   Thu May 8 2008

May have more health benefits than previously thought. Extracts useful in treatment of brain diseases in combination with other elements. Patent information request call 800-648-6787.

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