Gail of Clay and Limestone is celebrating wildflowers this week and I wanted to get in on the fun. Fortunately I have one wildflower in bloom here at the End of the Road, coltsfoot, coughwort or Tussilago farfara. I usually call it an ‘herb’ because of its medicinal uses. Its leaves are used in an infusion or to smoke, in both cases to cure a cough. Of course the word ‘herb’ in its broadest sense means only a plant that dies down to the ground in the fall or winter.
A wildflower is one that grows without cultivation, and that is how I found my coltsfoot, growing wild by the side of my road. It is not a native American plant, but once here it became known for growing in moist, gravelly soils. That describes the roadsides in my town, including the road that ends at our house. Coltsfoot looks like a little dandelion, but blooms earlier than dandelions. Also the bloom appears before the foliage, large leaves that are often described as looking like a horse’s hoof, or at least the hoof of a colt. It often appears where the soil has been disturbed, like the roadsides, and sends out runners. Last year I moved a couple of coltsfoot plants to the northern side of the Rose Bank and it has spread. I hope it will make a sufficiently vigorous ground cover that it will choke out any undesirable weeds.