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Copyright © 1995-2003 Henriette Kress.

Scientific Names:  Petasites sagittatus,& frigidus


Appearance:  Perennial herbs with 10-50 cm tall flowering stems from slim, creeping rootstocks.  The basal leaves are triangular to kidney-shaped, mostly 10 – 20cm wide, long-stalked, and wooly- white beneath.  The flower heads are white to pinkish and about a centimeter across with only a few ray florets and many disc florets in elongated clusters (from April to July before the leaves appear.)  The fruit is slender with 5 – 10 ribbed seed-like achenes, with a tuft of white, hair-like bristles.

  • The arrow-leaved coltsfoot (P. sagittatus) has shallowly toothed, angular leaves.

  • Sweet coltsfoot (P. frigidus) has two common varieties distinguished by leaf shape.
    • The artic coltsfoot (var. nivalis) has heart-shaped leaves with coarse teeth and/or shallow lobes.
    • The palmate-leaved coltsfoot (var. palmatus) has rounder leaves deeply cut into many finger –like lobes.



  • The arrow-leaved coltsfoot (P. sagittatus) grows in moist, usually open plains, foothill and mountainous sites from Alaska to Colorado.

  • Both of the sweet coltsfoot varieties are found in the Canadian Rockies and hybrids are widespread.



Collecting:  Roots are used for asthma purposes, but never collect plants from areas where the water may be polluted.



Medicinal uses for asthma:  The mucilage and compounds with antispasmodic and sedative effects of coltsfoot is said to be soothing and calming.  Dried coltsfoot is used to make medicinal teas to relieve coughing and pain between the ribs in chest colds, whooping cough, asthma and viral pneumonia.  Many coltsfoot extracts are used to lessen spasms and cramps in the stomach, gall bladder and colon.  Coltsfoot roots are chewed or made into medicinal teas for treating chest ailments like asthma

Caution:  Coltsfoot contains alkaloids that are harmful if eaten in large quantities.  Pregnant women shouldn’t eat these plants – strong doses could cause miscarriages.  Never collect plants from areas where the water may be polluted.