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Colt’s-foot

Tussilago farfara

Colt's-foot flower with yellow petals, each with orange markings at the tip

Colt’s-foot is a bright, yellow daisy and is one of the first wild flowers to emerge in Spring.

The single flowers are held on scaly, crimson stems. As these start to die back, flat-fans of dark green leaves appear. These leaves are silver-white on their undersides.

Three orange-yellow Colt's-foot flowers

Where to spot it

Colt’s-foot grows in a range of habitats with open or disturbed ground, including arable land, waste land, shingle and scree, and even landslips. It grows particularly well in waste, rough and cultivated places where there is poor drainage.

Best time to spot it

Colt’s-foot is one of the early arrivals of spring. The best time to see it is throughout March and April.

Several Colt's-foot flowers, some fully in bloom and others closed or wilted

Things you might not know

  • Historically, Colt’s-foot has been used as a remedy for coughs and colds and Colt’s-foot preparations have long been used to soothe sore throats. In fact, it is sometimes called ‘Coughwort’.
  • Other vernacular names for Colt’s-foot include Disherlagie, Dishylaggie, Tushies and Cleats. The Scottish ‘Tushylucky’ and its variants come from the Latin tussilago, related to tussis, a cough.
  • Colt’s-foot also goes by another common name: Baccy plant. This is because it is considered a good substitute for tobacco!
  • The dry felt on the leaves of Colt’s-foot smoulder well and so it has also been used as tinder.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Blackthorn

Prunus spinosa

Trailing cluster of white blossom of the Blackthorn

Each year, Blackthorn heralds the coming of spring as one of the first native trees to burst into blossom.

Blackthorn belongs to the rose family and its fruit are known as sloes – famously used to flavour sloe gin!

Single white blossom of the Blackthorn in bloom, surrounded by buds and bare branches

How to spot it

Blackthorn is a rather shrubby tree with dark-hued branches (hence the name “black” thorn). It produces white, five-petalled blossom in early spring. When these wither, they are replaced with sloes – dark blue-purple fruit, around a centimetre wide. Blackthorn leaves are oval-shaped, serrated and pointed at the tip.

In spring and summer, it can be confused with Hawthorn. Hawthorn blossom, however, appears amidst the leaves, whereas Blackthorn blossoms before they appear.

Where to spot it

Blackthorn is found most commonly in hedgerows but it can also be spotted in scrub and wood borders all over the UK and Ireland.

Things you might not know

  • Kernels of sloes were found in the stomach of Ötzi, the neolithic “iceman” found preserved in the Alps in 1991, suggesting he’d been eating fruit from a Blackthorn shortly before he died.
  • Blackthorn’s wood is traditionally used to make Irish shillelaghs (a type of walking stick that also doubled as a club or cudgel).
  • The Brown Hairstreak butterfly often chooses to lay its eggs on young Blackthorn shoots and it provides food for the caterpillars. The annual flailing of hedgerows (where Blackthorn can usually be found) has been blamed, in part, for the butterfly’s decline as the eggs are removed before they hatch.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Shepherd’s Purse

Capsella bursa-pastoris

The seedpods of this common wildflower resemble little drawstring pouches worn by medieval peasants, spilling out tiny copper-coloured seeds when broken apart

A member of the Cabbage family, this annual plant produces flowers throughout the year, and is able to yield hundreds of seeds.

How to identify Shepherd’s Purse

With a leafy rosette at the base, it grows to about 40cm. The leaves are larger and pinnately lobed at the bottom, and then arrow-shaped with wavy edges along the stem. It has tiny white scentless flowers arranged in a loose raceme, which are replaced by its highly recognisable seedpods.

Where to find Shepherd’s Purse

It is widespread throughout Britain, particularly in waste grounds and cultivated fields.

Did you know?

  • Also known as ‘Mother’s Heart’, this refers to an ancient game played in both England and Germany in which one child asks another to pick one of the seedpods. Upon breaking it, the child is then told they have broken their mother’s heart.
  • Local names include Bad Man’s Oatmeal (Durham); Blindweed (Yorkshire), Lady’s Purses (East Anglia), Poor Man’s Purse (Somerset).
  • It has been used in homeopathy to treat gall bladder and kidney problems.
  • It is considered an antiscorbutic, meaning it prevents scurvy.
  • In China, the leaves are eaten, taste similar to cabbage but with a spicy, peppery flavour.
  • It can be used as a herbal tea and is known for its anti-bleeding properties.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum