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Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot ( Tussilago farfara )

Order : Astern-like (Asterales)
Family : Daisy family (Asteraceae)
Subfamily : Asteroideae
Tribe : Senecioneae
Genre : Coltsfoot ( Tussilago )
Type : Coltsfoot
Scientific name
Tussilago farfara

The coltsfoot ( Tussilago farfara ) is the only plant species of the genus Tussilago from the family of Compositae (Asteraceae). It is one of the first spring flowers whose blooms appear before the leaves develop. The coltsfoot was the medicinal plant of the year 1994 in Germany . It is also known under the names broad, breast or donkey lettuce, laths, lats, ackerlatsche, Wanderer's toilet paper, cow patties, donkey or horseshoe, donkey footsteps, foal foot and hoof leaf.



The coltsfoot grows as a perennial herbaceous plant and reaches heights of 10 to 30 centimeters. The long-stalked and basal leaves reach about 10 to 20 centimeters wide. They are toothed and heart or hoof shaped. Due to the white felt underside of the leaf, the annoying vein network is not clearly visible. The leaves, whose slightly bitter taste is astringent, have a faint odor.

Early in the spring, only appearing first basket-shaped inflorescences that about 300 female yellow ray florets and 30 to 40 male yellow tubular flowers included. The leaves only follow after they have withered. At flowering time, the stems are covered only with brown or reddish, hairy scale leaves. Faded stems stretch considerably and are nodding clearly overhanging until shortly before the “seeds” ripen, then upright. This favors the spread through air movements ( anemochory ). The flowers smell faintly honey-like and taste similar to the leaves, but a little sweeter.

The number of chromosomes is 2n = 60.

Possible confusion

The leaves of the coltsfoot are easy to confuse with the very similar leaves of the white butterbur ( Petasites albus ). However, the coltsfoot leaves are generally smaller than those of the white butterbur and have black marginal teeth. In butterbur, the vascular bundles in the cross-section of the petiole are irregular and not U-shaped like in coltsfoot.


The coltsfoot emerges from a rhizome with creeping, up to 2 meters long subterranean roots .

The flowering period extends from February to April. The coltsfoot is one of the first spring flowers and is pollinated by bees , beetles and hoverflies . Even self-pollination occurs. The seeds are spread (like with common dandelions ) by paragliders over the wind. The seeds are also carried on via Velcro spreading and ants .

The coltsfoot is used as a food plant for several endangered butterfly species, including the caterpillars of the alpine cube -head butterfly ( Pyrgus cacaliae ), the great ground owl ( Rhyacia lucipeta ) and the yellowish alpine earth owl ( Xestia ochreago ). Larvae of the fly acidia cognata minieren in the leaves of coltsfoot and butterbur .

The coltsfoot is attacked by the rust fungi Puccinia poarum var. Poarum (with spermogonia and aecia ) and Coleosporium tussilaginis (with uredia and telia ). It is also a host plant for butterbur summer root ( Orobanche flava ).

Distribution and location

Coltsfoot blooming and fruiting

The coltsfoot is native to Europe , Africa, and West and East Asia . In North America it is considered naturalized ( invasive plant ).

It colonizes dry, warm locations on well drained soils. Therefore, coltsfoot is often found on dams, in quarries and on unpaved roads. In the mountains it occurs at altitudes of around 2300 meters. In the Allgäu Alps , it rises on the Hochrappenkopf in Bavaria up to 2115 m above sea level.

According to Gerhard Madaus ' textbook on biological remedies from 1938, coltsfoot is the only plant species that can thrive even on pure brown coal . Furthermore, it is considered a pointer plant for waterlogged areas.

A large coltsfoot corridor

Under certain conditions, coltsfoot can be used for all-dominant characteristic species of a particular plant community are the Huflattichflur ( Poo-Tussilaginetum Tx. 1931). This is subordinated to the association of semi-ruderal semi-arid grasslands ( Convolvulo-Agropyrion ). A pioneer plant by nature on at least alternately moist, loamy or clayey raw soils , the coltsfoot sometimes finds conditions that lead to mass populations through human intervention, for example on road embankments, sand pits, construction sites, earth deposits and quarries. In summer mainly bluegrass ( Poa ) grow here . Since the coltsfoot field usually arises as a result of human activity, it is usually soon displaced by other plant communities. It only remains stable for longer in natural locations such as stream and river banks. After the end of the Second World War, the coltsfoot was the predominant plant in the second wave of colonization after the annuals on the ruins of the cities (e.g. in Stuttgart and elsewhere).


Tussilago farfara was first published by Carl von Linné . Tussilago farfara is the only species in the genus Tussilago . The genus Tussilago belongs to the tribe Senecioneae in the subfamily Asteroideae within the family Asteraceae .


The current generic name Tussilago is first documented in the Naturalis historia (26, 30) of Pliny and a derivation from Latin tussis 'cough' with the suffix - (il) āgo, which also occurs in other plant names . The specific epithet farfara is borrowed from Latin ( Plautus frg. Inc. 50 farfari , Poenulus 478 farferi , Plin. Nat. Hist. 24, 135 farfarum 'coltsfoot'), the further origin is unclear; farfugium (Plin. Nat. hist. 1, 24, 85 farfugio ), which appears as a combination of far 'grain, flour' and fugio 'flee' or fugo 'to flee' and therefore appears as a 'corn scare ' , is probably transformed from this 'is interpreted. The German name refers, like the old Latin name ungula caballina (horse hoof), to the hoof-shaped shape of the leaves.

The coltsfoot does not belong to the genus of real lettuce ( Lactuca ), the name of which comes from the high content of these plants in milk sap (Latin lac "milk"). The name -lattich goes back to the Latin lapaticum , which was originally used to designate various large-leaved plants and which changed from laptica and lattica to lettuce .

Ingredients and use

Coltsfoot as - now obsolete - leaf drug (Farfarae folium)

Ingredients include polysaccharides , mucilage , sterols , bitter substances and tannins .

The coltsfoot is an important medicinal plant for coughing and has an expectorant effect. The most medicinally effective part are the leaves ( drug : Farfarae folium). Coltsfoot is one of the oldest cough suppressants. Dioscorides , Pliny and Galenus already recommended the smoke of the lighted leaves against coughs. Also Hildegard of Bingen has the coltsfoot for diseases of the healing respiratory system down. The Commission E saw the former Federal Health Office efficacy of Huflattichblättern given in "acute catarrh of the respiratory tract with coughing and hoarseness" and "acute, mild inflammation of the mouth and throat," which approval as a drug -founded in Germany. Preparations made from coltsfoot leaves and flowers contain mutagenic and potentially carcinogenic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA). According to the current state of knowledge, medicinal products containing coltsfoot - regardless of the dosage form - must not exceed a limit of 1 μg PA per maximum declared daily dose. The limit value of 10 μg PA mentioned in the E-Monograph commission is therefore no longer valid. This means that only tested herbal drugs from controlled cultures with a reduced PA content should be used. In the case of coltsfoot, PA-free varieties were selected, which in principle allows the production of coltsfoot medicines again; however, the plant is currently not used in medicine. Even in paramedicine preparations , no constituent of the Tussilago farfara can be detected.

The large leaves of the coltsfoot are softly haired on the underside and are therefore also used as toilet paper by nature lovers.


  • Henning Haeupler, Thomas Muer: picture atlas of the fern and flowering plants of Germany . Ed .: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (=  The fern and flowering plants of Germany . Volume 2 ). Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart (Hohenheim) 2000, ISBN 3-8001-3364-4 .
  • Rudolf Schubert , Günther Wagner : Botanical dictionary. Plant names and botanical technical terms with an “introduction to terminology and nomenclature”, a list of the “author names” and an overview of the “system of plants” (=  UTB . Volume 1476 ). 11th edition. Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart (Hohenheim) 1993, ISBN 3-8252-1476-1 .

Individual evidence

  1. Coltsfoot. In: Retrieved April 29, 2020 .
  2. ^ Erich Oberdorfer : Plant-sociological excursion flora for Germany and neighboring areas . With the collaboration of Angelika Schwabe and Theo Müller. 8th, heavily revised and expanded edition. Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart (Hohenheim) 2001, ISBN 3-8001-3131-5 , pp. 947 .
  3. ^ Manfred A. Fischer, Karl Oswald, Wolfgang Adler: Excursion flora for Austria, Liechtenstein and South Tyrol . 3rd, improved edition. Province of Upper Austria, Biology Center of the Upper Austrian State Museums, Linz 2008, ISBN 978-3-85474-187-9 , p. 926 .
  4. Joachim Haupt, Hiroko Haupt: Flies and Mosquitoes. Observation, way of life. Naturbuch, Jena / Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-89440-278-4 .
  5. Peter Zwetko: The rust mushrooms Austria. Supplement and host-parasite directory for the 2nd edition of the Catalogus Florae Austriae. III. Part, Book 1: Uredinales. (PDF file; 1.8 MB)
  6. ^ Manfred A. Fischer, Wolfgang Adler, Karl Oswald: Excursion flora for Austria, Liechtenstein and South Tyrol . 2nd, improved and enlarged edition. State of Upper Austria, Biology Center of the Upper Austrian State Museums, Linz 2005, ISBN 3-85474-140-5 .
  7. Erhard Dörr, Wolfgang Lippert : Flora of the Allgäu and its surroundings. Volume 2, IHW, Eching 2004, ISBN 3-930167-61-1 , p. 612.
  8. G. Madaus: Textbook of biological remedies. Volume 2, Thieme, Leipzig 1938, pp. 1338-1344.
  9. ^ Gerhard Wagenitz : Family Compositae . In Gustav Hegi : Illustrated Flora of Central Europe. 2nd Edition. Volume VI, Part 3, Verlag Paul Parey, Berlin / Hamburg 1979, ISBN 3-489-84020-8 , p. 1369.
  10. ^ Thesaurus Linguae Latinae. Volume VI 1, p. 281, sv farfarum , lin. 44ff.
  11. Alois Walde , Johann Baptist Hofmann : Latin etymological dictionary. Heidelberg 1938, p. 457.
  12. Heinrich Marzell , Heinz Paul: Dictionary of German plant names. Volume IV, Stuttgart / Wiesbaden 1979, p. 851.
  13. Medicinal plants: Coltsfoot. Retrieved August 18, 2015 .
  14. Farfarae folium (Coltsfoot leaves ) . Monograph BGA / BfArM (Commission E). In: Federal Gazette. 138, July 27, 1990. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  15. T. Dingermann, D. Loew: Phytopharmakologie . Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart, 2003, ISBN 3-8047-1896-5 .
  16. JB: Limit values ​​for pyrrolizidine alkaloids . In: Deutsche Apothekerzeitung . 31, 30 Jul 2015, p. 32.
  17. M. Wichtl: Tea drugs and phytopharmaceuticals . Scientific Book Society, Stuttgart, 2009, ISBN 978-3-8047-2369-6 .

Web links

Commons : Tussilago farfara  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Coltsfoot  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations