The Song of the Coltsfoot Fairy
The winds of March are keen and cold;
I fear them not, for I am bold.
I wait not for my leaves to grow;
They follow after: they are slow.
My yellow blooms are brave and bright;
I greet the Spring with all my might.
(by Cicely Mary Barker)
I only saw a couple of these beauties in March, barely open. The one above was March 2012, and the ones photographed below on April 1st 2013 were still quite small. They certainly need all their might this Spring!
The name (Huflattich in German) comes from their hoof-shaped leaves that appear later and grow to a tremendous size. They can be used in all sorts of herbal remedies, including cough sweets; the “tussilago” part of the name comes from the Latin for “suppressing a cough”. (Ever heard of “Coltsfoot Rock“?)
The next photo is not too clear as the forest floor was quite dim, but here you can see the flower head in more detail - pollinating insects crawl over the tiny little male florets within the bloom which contain nectar and give off pollen, then they fly to the next flower and use the female outer ray petals for landing, where pollen is brushed over the stigmas. Normally the Coltsfoot is an important early source of nectar and pollen for bees, but I have only seen one bee this year so far. However, the outer petals close over the central florets in wet and cloudy weather, and the plant therefore also self-pollinates. Double safe!
Do you see this plant in your part of the world?
(And if anyone has some better photos of the flower head, I’d love to see them!)