Petasites frigidus (Sweet Coltsfoot)
|Also known as:||Artic Sweet Coltsfoot, Arctic Butterbur, Palmate Sweet Coltsfoot, Arrow-leaved Sweet Coltsfoot, Grape-leaved Sweet Coltsfoot|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; moist to wet; meadows, woods, swampy places|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||6 to 24 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FACW NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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A round topped cluster, 3 to 4 inches across, of creamy white to pinkish flower heads on a sturdy, erect stem emerges from the ground well before the leaves. Plants are mostly dioecious (either male or female) though some heads may be mixed. Female flowers have 2 to 140 short rays (petals), depending on the variety.
Male flowers have dozens of thread-like petals mixed with stamens, all about the same length. The heads are ½ to ¾ inch across on long stalks, those in the center of the cluster are shorter stalked and develop before the outer flowers and those lower on the stem. Bracts are often purplish or purple tipped.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves on the flower stem are narrowly lance shaped and stalkless becoming smaller, bract-like in the flower cluster. Like the stem and flower stalks they are sparsely hairy that diminishes with age. Basal leaves emerge directly from underground colonial root system in coarse rosettes, typically off to the side of flowering stems on a sturdy, upright stalk (petiole). These leaves are generally large, up to 15 inches across though those we've observed in Minnesota are typically half this size or less.
The leaf stalk and undersides are densely covered with white, woolly hairs (tomentose), especially when younger, the upper surface sparsely hairy becoming smoother with age. The shape is highly variable as per the three recognized varieties; broadly arrowhead shaped (var. sagittatus), those round in outline with 5 to 11 deep sinuses with the finger lobes also lobed (var. palmatus), and forms midway between these two with broader, shallower lobes (var. X vitifolius). The blades can be quite wavy and the edges range from smooth to coarsely and sharply toothed.
Sweet Coltsfoot is an early riser in northern Minnesota and, in spite of large colonies when other vegetation has yet to emerge, they are often overlooked due in part to the shorter stature of the flower cluster at a time when fewer people are out and about. The seed heads develop quickly and they become more noticeable getting up to a full 24 inches, with their large cottony heads and large colonies of silver, leathery leaves.
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- basal leaves var. sagittatus
- basal leaves, var. palmatus
- basal leaves, var. X vitifolius
- Sweet Coltsfoot plants
- Sweet Coltsfoot plants
- Sweet Coltsfoot swampy habitat
- Sweet Coltsfoot woods habitat
- pinkish flowers
- developing fruit
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Beltrami, Cass, Kittson and Roseau counties, MN, and in Washington state. Photo by Eugene Reimer ©2003 ereimer.net. Photo by James Gaither licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?