Petasites frigidus (L.) Fries

northern sweet-coltsfoot

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Native Americans of Alaska and northern Canada made extensive use of northern sweet-coltsfoot. They used the plant to make a cough medicine, a salad of young leaves, stems and flowers, and they used the mature leaves to create a makeshift funnel, a temporary container for berries, and to cover kegs of berries and rhubarb to discourage mold growth during winter storage.

Habitat

Fens, swamps

Characteristics

Habitat
wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf type
leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaf arrangement
basal: the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant
Leaf blade edges
  • the edge of the leaf blade has no teeth or lobes
  • the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
Flower type in flower heads
the flower head has tubular disk flowers in the center and ray flowers, these often strap-shaped, around the periphery
Ray flower color
  • pink to red
  • white
Tuft or plume on fruit
at least a part of the plume is made up of fine bristles
Spines on plant
the plant has no spines
Leaf blade length
20–400 mm
Disk flower number
  • 1-5
  • 11-20
  • 21-50
  • 6-10
  • more than 50
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Bract color
    the bracts are colored, or at least tinged with, pink, red or purple
    Bract cycle number
    • there are two main cycles of bracts
    • there is one main cycle of bracts
    Bract keels
    the bracts do not have keels
    Bract outer side hair type
    • the bracts are hairy on their outer surfaces, with curled, tangled, matted, or woolly hairs
    • the bracts are hairy, with simple hairs on their outer surface
    Bract outer side hairs
    the bracts are hairy on their outer surfaces
    Bract shape
    the main bracts are linear (long and very narrow)
    Bract spines
    the bracts have no spines
    Bract texture
    the bracts have a similar texture to a leaf
    Bract tip color
    the tips are a different color from the center of the bract
    Bract tip extension appearance
    NA
    Bract tip extension edge
    there are no projections from the bract tips
    Bract tip orientation
    the bracts are pressed against the plant, or spreading out at the tips
    Bract tip shape
    • the tips of the bracts acute (have a sharp point)
    • the tips of the bracts are obtuse (have a blunt point)
    Bracts
    the bracts in separate cycles are similar or gradually changing from the outer to inner cycles
    Disk flower color
    • white
    • yellow
    Disk flower lobe number
    5
    Disk flower number
    • 1-5
    • 11-20
    • 21-50
    • 6-10
    • more than 50
    Disk flower reproductive parts
    • the disk flower has both pollen- and seed-producing parts
    • the disk flower has either only pollen- or only seed-producing parts
    Flower head number
    each flowering stem has four or more flower heads on it
    Flower head outer flowers
    at the outer edge of the flower head, each flower has a single enlarged lobe or strap
    Flower head platform
    the base has no bristles or papery scales
    Flower head platform surface
    NA
    Flower head position
    some or all the flower heads are grouped in clusters of two or more
    Flower head profile
    • the disk is flat or nearly flat across the top
    • the disk is rounded across the top
    Flower head shape
    the sides of the flower head are roughly parallel, like a cylinder
    Flower type in flower heads
    the flower head has tubular disk flowers in the center and ray flowers, these often strap-shaped, around the periphery
    Height of flower head base
    1–12.8 mm
    Inflorescence branching (Solidago)
    NA
    Inflorescence shape
    • the inflorescence is flat-topped in profile
    • the inflorescence is not flat-topped but appears rounded, with some flower heads distinctly higher than others
    Inflorescence stem
    hairs are present on the stem of the inflorescence
    Ovary cross-section
    the ovary has five or more corners in cross-section
    Ovary lines or ribs
    • there are four to six lines or ribs visible on the ovary
    • there are seven to nine ribs visible on the ovary
    • there are ten or more ribs visible on the ovary
    Ovary profile
    in profile, the ovary is oblong (roughly rectangular but rounded at the ends)
    Peduncle hair type
    the hairs on the peduncles appear tangled or woolly
    Peduncle hairs
    the peduncles are hairy
    Ray flower color
    • pink to red
    • white
    Ray flower reproductive parts
    • the ray flowers have both carpels and stamens
    • the ray flowers have carpels or stamens, but not both
    Ray flowers
    • 1-5
    • more than 50
    Ray length
    0.1–6.3 mm
    Reproductive system
    all the flowers on some plants have carpels, while all the flowers on other plants have stamens
    Scale tip
    NA
    Smaller bracts at base of bracts
    there is a cycle of much smaller bracts outside the cycle of larger and longer bracts
    Style branch number
    the style has two branches
    Style branches
    the style branch is wider at the tip and has a flattened end, or the style branches are wider at the tips and have flattened ends
    Width of flower head base
    6–15 mm
  • Fruits or seeds
    Number of pappus parts
    1
    Ovary length in developed fruit
    1.7–3.5 mm
    Seed hair tuft length
    6–13 mm
    Seed tuft type
    the pappus is made of very fine hairs or bristles
    Top of disk flower ovary
    NA
    Tuft or plume on fruit
    at least a part of the plume is made up of fine bristles
  • Glands or sap
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant has one or more free-standing stems
    Plant lifespan
    the plant is perennial, it shows evidence of previous year's leaves, stems or stem bases
    Spines on plant
    the plant has no spines
    Underground organs
    the plant has a rhizome (a horizontal underground stem with roots growing from it)
  • Leaves
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    the underside of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    • the upper side of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    • the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf arrangement
    basal: the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant
    Leaf blade base
    • the leaf has a distinct petiole
    • the leaf has no petiole
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf is cordate (heart-shaped) or sagittate (arrow-shaped)
    Leaf blade edges
    • the edge of the leaf blade has no teeth or lobes
    • the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
    Leaf blade hairs
    the leaf blade has tangled or woolly-looking hairs
    Leaf blade length
    20–400 mm
    Leaf blade shape
    • NA
    • the leaf blade is cordate (heart-shaped with backward-facing rounded lobes), or sagittate (arrow-shaped with backward-facing pointed lobes)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    there is no noticeable color variation on the upper surface of the leaf
    Leaf blade tip
    • the tip of the leaf blade is acute (sharply pointed)
    • the tip of the leaf blade is obtuse (bluntly pointed)
    • the tip of the leaf blade is rounded, with no point
    Leaf blade veins
    NA
    Leaf blade width
    100–400 mm
    Leaf disposition
    the lower leaves are larger, toothier, and/or on longer stalks than the upper leaves
    Leaf spines
    there are no spines on the leaf edges
    Leaf stalk
    • the leaves have leaf stalks
    • the leaves have no leaf stalks, but attach directly to the stem
    Leaf type
    leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Leaflet number
    0
    Specific leaf type
    the leaf has lobes that radiate from the base, somewhat like a hand
    Teeth per side of leaf blade
    Up to 52
  • Place
    Habitat
    wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • fens
    • swamps
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Flowering stem cross-section
    the flowering stem is circular, or with lots of small angles
    Leaves on stem
    the flowering stem has no leaves above the base
    Stem internode hair type
    • at least some of the hairs on the stem are tangled, matted or woolly
    • the stem has no hairs between the nodes
    Stem internode hairs
    • the stem has hairs between the nodes
    • the stem has no hairs between the nodes
    Stem wings
    the stem does not have wings on it

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in wetlands, but occasionally in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACW)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Connecticut
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. palmatus

Connecticut
rare (S-rank: S2), threatened (code: T)
Massachusetts
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)
New Hampshire
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)
Rhode Island
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), state endangered (code: SE)
Vermont
rare (S-rank: S2), threatened (code: T)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Petasites japonicus

Synonyms

  • Nardosmia arctica (Porsild) A. & D. Löve
  • Petasites arcticus Porsild
  • Petasites frigidus (L.) Fries ssp. arcticus (Porsild) Cody
  • Petasites frigidus (L.) Fries ssp. palmatus (Ait.) Cody
  • Petasites palmatus (Ait.) Gray
  • Tussilago palmata Ait.

Family

Asteraceae

Genus

Petasites

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Our variety is Petasites frigidus (L.) Fries var. palmatus.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Petasites frigidus (L.) Fries var. palmatus (Ait.) Cronq. N

northern sweet-coltsfoot. Nardosmia arctica (Porsild) A. & D. Löve; Petasites arcticus Porsild; P. frigidus (L.) Fries ssp. arcticus (Porsild) Cody; P. frigidus (L.) Fries ssp. palmatus (Ait.) Cody; 
 P. palmatus (Ait.) Gray; Tussilago palmata Ait. • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Swamps, fens, seeps, often in regions of high-pH bedrock in southern and/or western New England.