Blooming coltsfoot is another sign of Spring. Coltsfoot only blooms in very early Spring in Pennsylvania, during the last week of March and the first week of April. I first saw them blooming on March 24th this year and expect them to continue blooming for another week.
Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara, can be mistaken for a dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, at first glance. Closer inspection shows the flower head is similar to dandelion, but the leaves of coltsfoot are quite distinct. Can’t show the leaves just yet as they haven’t emerged. That’s one big difference between coltsfoot and dandelion, dandelion leaves appear before the flower does. Another difference is that the dandelions aren’t blooming yet. So, near the end of March you’re likely to find dandelion leaves but no flowers, and coltsfoot flowers, but no leaves.
Coltsfoot flowers are composites of yellow, just like the dandelion, but the rays are thinner and more delicate-looking in the coltsfoot. Once the flower is pollinated, the resulting seeds are arranged in a fluffy ball, just like a dandelion, and its seeds are dispersed by the wind, too.
Note the small bracts or scales along the flower stem. These inch-long bracts are held close to the flower stem and are maroon to brown.
The true leaves are supposedly shaped like that of a young horse’s hoof, thus the name coltsfoot, but I don’t see the resemblance. Leaves are heart-shaped at the base and emerge after the flowering is all but finished. Leaves continue to grow larger for a couple weeks more. The coltsfoot leaves will finish out the summer looking like little canopies all along the roadside where the flowers once bloomed.