By Common Name‎ > ‎Wildflowers N-Z‎ > ‎

Western Coltsfoot

Western Coltsfoot or Arctic Butterbur, Petasites palmatus & Petasites frigidus

The sturdy P palmatus, Western Coltsfoot in bloom, photographer Martha Rasmussen

Both P palmatus & P frigidus, genus of Asteraceae, (the Aster family), are referred to as Western Coltsfoot.  They are both very similar with stout thick stems, very broad leaves measuring up to 16 inches across and large sheathed flowerhead. This is the first "Composite" flower to bloom in early Spring, sometimes pushing it's thick stem right through the snow.  The flower quickly goes to seed and widely sow being air-born.  The Latin name Palmatus refers to the large hand shaped leaves of the plant.

Western Coltsfoot, P palmatus, emerging from the snow in early spring, photographer Martha Rasmussen

The Latin name Petasites describes the very large broad leaves of this plant in comparison of a "Petasos", a large brimmed hat.  Not only is this a strikingly beautiful plant but has a long history of being used for its medicinal properties being an expectorant aiding with coughs and congestion.

Western Coltsfoot, P frigidus, going to seed, photographer Martha Rasmussen

P frigidus tends to be more northern and an alpine plant than the P palmatus.  The large hand shaped leaves are not as spread out and are toothed  on the edges.  They are very similar in a appearance.