Petasites frigidus (Coltsfoot) - photos and description



Stem leaves in above photo


Basal leaf in above photo from var. sagittatus


Basal leaf in above photo from var. vitifolius

General: Stout-stemmed perennials, rhizomatous. Flowering stems usually appear before the basal leaves.

Flowers: Flower heads are white, and grow in a dense, ball-shaped cluster. Very fragrant. We measured a flower head at 2 cm diameter. Involucre bracts have gland-tipped hairs.

Leaves: Stem leaves are more or less alternate, clasping, linear-lanceolate, have their edges rolled inward, are reduced in size upwards, and are white woolly below. Stem leaf highlighted in photo above was 8 cm long by 15 mm wide. The plant photographed above is Petasites frigidus var. sagittatus, its basal leaves are triangular in shape, the margins have broad, irregular teeth, there are long appressed hairs on the top side of the leaf, and the leaf bottom is white woolly.

Height: Height of flower stalks is listed in Budd's Flora to 50 cm, we measured flower stalks to 28 cm tall.

Habitat: Swampy ground, moist woodlands, and ditches, parklands and boreal forest.

Abundance: Common.

Origin: Native.

Synonym: Most of our field guides list three species of Petasites native to Saskatchewan. The Flora of North America and the Integrated Taxonomic Information System now list each of these plants as varieties under a single species - Petasites frigidus. The varieties can be distinguished by their basal leaves:

- P. frigidus var. sagittatus (photos on this web page) has arrow-shaped basal leaves
- P. frigidus var. palmatus has palmate basal leaves
- P. frigidus var. vitifolius has roughly triangular basal leaves, divided half to one-third of the way to the midrib. 

When and where photographed: Above photos taken when plants were just beginning to flower on May 2nd, wet ground in mixed woods, Moose Mountain Provincial Park, about 200 km southeast of Regina, SK, and May 22nd, wet ditch, Good Spirit Lake Provincial Park, about 250 km northeast our home in Regina, SK.