What is That Yellow Flower Blooming by the Side of the Road?


Submitted 6 months ago
Created by
Henry Homeyer

You may have noticed patches of bright yellow flowers growing alongside the road right now. At 30 MPH you may have read them as dandelions. But if you think about it, dandelions grow on lawns and in fields, surrounded by greenery. These flowers tend to grow in sandy, inhospitable places.

Unlike dandelions, Coltsfoot has a yellow button in the middle.

The flower described above is called Colt’s Foot (Tussilago farfara). It is not native to the United States, but was probably introduced by European settlers who believed it had medicinal properties. Modern scientists have determined that the alkaloids present in it are toxic, and the plant should never be eaten or used as a medicinal.

Coltsfoot can grow in nasty soil other plants reject.

Coltsfoot is considered an invasive by some, though it is not on the official list of invasives in either New Hampshire or Vermont. It can spread by seed or root, typically forming colonies in soil alongside the road. I once tried digging up some and planting it in garden soil, but it did not survive.

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Later, after the flowers have disappeared, leaves will appear. They are roughly the size and shape of a colt’s foot, but have sharp points on the edges of the leaves. 

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