The Tussilago genus and the Tussilago farfara
The words or terms in red
(actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a
Tussilago farfara is the only
species in the
It is widespread over Eurasia and Northern Africa
and was introduced into Northern America.
It is ruderal plant,
i.e. growing in weed places, namely, waste lands,
embankments, ravines, ditches, sides of roads, etc.;
it prefers humid places and loam.
The species belongs to the
In Latin, tussis means cough and
ago from the verb agere means
I push outside (in one of its many meaning, since agere
is more or less the equivalent of to do).
This reflects a common use of the plant and it was probably brought
in North America by early settlers for medicinal reasons.
As for the species name, plenty of references say:
The specific name of the plant is derived from Farfarus,
an ancient name of the White Poplar, the leaves of which present
some resemblance in form and color to those of this plant.
But in the most classical of the Latin to French dictionary, the
Dictionnaire Illustré Latin Français by Félix Gaffiot,
at the entry farfarus, Mr. Gaffiot
cites the word as used by Pliny the Elder
(23-79) in his Naturalis Historia, book 24, paragraph 35, and by
Plautus (c. 254-184 BC) in the line 478 of his comedy Poenulus;
he then translates it as tussilage, one of the French names of
Tussilago. So, choose whichever explanation you like,
(and I prefer the second one and I don't have the time,
in order to settle the matter, to check what Mr. Gaffiot said).
Some of the vernacular names of
Tussilago farfara are: Assfoot, British Tobacco, Bull's-foot,
Cleats, Colt-herb, Coltsfoot, Dove-dock, Dummyweed, Clayweed, Sowfoot,
Foalfoot, Ginger, Gingerroot, Hoofs, Horsefoot and Horsehoof.
Some of the French vernacular names are:
Pas-d'âne, Tussilage, Tussilage Pas-d'âne, Pas de baudet,
Pied de cheval, Pas de cheval, Herbe aux pattes, Taconnet
Tussilago farfara is trivial to identify when in bloom; the
are somewhat similar to those of the
dandelions but with slender and more numerous
ray florets. Blooms first appear in early spring and continue into mid spring;
it is quite often the first plant to bloom;
in my area, 25 km North of Montréal, I have seen a few in bloom
at the end of March (on a slope, facing south) and there was still
plenty of snow just around; the last snow banks had not yet melted.
Flower heads have even been known to push through snow.
Tussilago farfara is a perennial
herb which spreads mainly through underground
During the summer, food is stored in the rhizomes for the following
year's early spring growth.
The plant has no main stem.
- Appear after the flowers are gone.
- All basal,
with a long petiole.
- Measuring from 3 to 8 inches in width and length, rounded to
- With irregular teeth along outer
- With a white lower surface, densely matted woolly hairs.
- With a glabrous
- Appear before the leaves.
- Borne of a woolly, scaly stalk,
from 3 to 18 inches in height, arising directly from the rootstock;
the scales pointed, red-tipped.
- The stalk upright when flowering, then drooping after flowering,
then upright again when the seeds form.
- About 1 inch across.
- With yellow, hermaphrodite
and self-fertile ray florets and
the ray florets exceeding the disk-florets.
- With the bracts of the
involucre about 8 to 15 mm.
- opening only on sunny days.
- Pollinated by bees and flies.
- As white balls of tufted seeds somewhat similar to
dandelions but quite denser.
- With seeds (achenes)
about 3 mm long, cylindrical in shape
and yellow or red brown in color.
- Seeds with a silky white
circa 3 times longer than the achene.
Frequently on alkaline clays,
in roadsides, trail sides, fields wasteland, often as a pioneer.
The plant prefer damp soils and full sunlight.
Tussilago farfara is found:
- in Europe, including Britain: from Norway north to the Mediterranean
- in North Africa;
- in western and northern Asia;
- in the north-eastern States of the USA, west to Minnesota and Illinois,
south to North Carolina and Tennesse, and in Washington State;
- in eastern Canada, from Ontario to Nova-Scotia.
The map, from Flora of North America shows the US States
and Canadian provinces where Tussilago farfara can be found.
Flower buds and young flowers, raw or cooked, are edible.
With a pleasant aniseed flavour they add a distinctive aromatic flavour
Young leaves, raw or cooked, are also edible.
They can be used in salads, added to soups, or cooked as a vegetable.
The leaves have a bitter taste unless they are washed after being boiled.
An aromatic tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves and flowers.
It is said to have a liquorice-like flavour.
The dried and burnt leaves are used as a salt substitute.
The slender rootstock can be candied in sugar syrup.
Tussilago farfara has a long history of medicinal use,
mainly as a treatment for respiratory ailments such as coughs,
hoarseness, and bronchitis.
It is also used as a poultice
(fresh mashed leaves) for difficult to heal sores.
Both the flowers and leaves are used,
but these parts are harvested separately
due to the staggered appearance of flowers and leaves.
Modern herbalists either prepare an infusion (like tea)
or a syrup that is taken orally for respiratory problems.
However, most herbalists are moving away
from the use of Tussilago farfara
due to recent findings that it contains
highly carcinogenic pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
The photos of the gallery were taken either with one of the following:
The title in the window shows the date when the picture was taken,
i.e. jan_30_06... would mean that the photo was taken on the 30th of
January, the 06 is for the 6th picture taken that day.
- Fuji Mx 700.
- Minolta DiMAGE 7.
- Nikon 2200.
- EPSON Perfection 1650 scanner.
The month, day and picture number might be followed by a letter:
and if there is no letter it's obviously the Minolta.
- f for the Fuji.
- n for the Nikon.
- s for the EPSON scanner.
Click on the thumbnails to get larger view.
The original photos are usually in TIFF format,
the photos shown are generally in JPEG format,
usually of dimension one half (surface one quarter)
for loading time reduction.
A carpet of Tussilago farfara.
The picture on the left, in the first row,
shows two flower head stalks just budding.
The second picture, in the second row,
illustrates the flower stalk and the bracts of the flower head.
The picture at left is a scan at 300 dpi,
that allows to get the dimensions of the seeds and their pappus.