Bonus 06 - Spring Ephemerals: Coltsfoot

And so begins a new chapter of spring ephemeral bonus episodes on the podcast. Join the guys as they discuss Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), a dandelion-look-alike. They talk about its adaptations, life cycle, use as a cooking spice, and toxicity. Unfortunately, Steve and Bill never figure out what the species name, farfara, means... but that didn't stop them from making a bunch of lame jokes about it. Enjoy!

When discussing Coltsfoot as an herbal remedy and its potentially cancer-causing constituents, Bill mentioned reading somewhere that the amount of carcinogen level present in Coltsfoot was similar to the carcinogen level in beer. As promised, he looked into this claim, but he found nothing to support it. He did, on the other hand, find a great deal of information on the dangers posed by regular consumption of Coltsfoot due to potentially liver-toxic substances called pyrrolizidine alkaloids, as well as confirmation of Steve's statement that horticulturists have developed forms of Coltsfoot that do not contain the harmful alkaloids. Information and references can be found here. Bill also recommends The Honest Herbal by Varro Tyler as a source of research-based information on the efficacy of herbal treatments. 

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Useful Links:
The Garden Path Podcast
The Dirty Sneaker Blog
Julia Cooke
The Pith & Petal Blog
Backpacker Diaries - Top Outdoor Podcasts for 2017 

Work Cited:
“Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara.” Invasive Plant Atlas of New England, The University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, 8 Mar. 2018,

Harper-Lore, B., Johnson, M. and Skinner, M.W., 2007. Roadside weed management.

Hirono, I., Mori, H. and Culvenor, C.C., 1976. Carcinogenic activity of coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara L. GANN Japanese Journal of Cancer Research, 67(1), pp.125-129.

Innes, Robin J. 2011. Tussilago farfara. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [2018, March 9]

Ogden, J., 1974. The reproductive strategy of higher plants: II. The reproductive strategy of Tussilago Farfara L. The Journal of Ecology, pp.291-324.

Peterson, R.T. and McKenny, M., 1996. A field guide to wildflowers: northeastern and north-central North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Swearingen, J., C. Bargeron. 2016 Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States. University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.