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Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Asteraceae or Sunflower Family

Yellow, dandelion-like flower heads on scaly stalks.  Seedheads also resemble those of dandelions.  Leaves are about 5 inches wide, heart-shaped, with jagged edges.  Flower heads appear in very early spring, one of the very earliest flowers in the park.  Leaves appear much later, after the flowers have gone to seed.

An alien invader. Unknown in Virginia forty years ago, but now spreading along roadsides.  Several years ago, there was one colony in the park, along the bottom of the cliffs behind the wetland inside the gate.  It has since spread to the cliffs near the Grand Staircase, to the north Riverway bridge, to the banks just outside the tunnel under main street, to wet areas on the east slope, and to the floodplain of Connelly's Run.  Likes open, moist places, and (mostly) tends not to invade woodlands.

In bloom, it is distinctive since nothing else has flower heads like that so early in the spring, except dandelions, which have hollow, non-scaly stems and leaves.  In the summer, it is easily overlooked, but the large, jagged, heart-shaped leaves are unusual.

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Flower from back

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(c) Chuck Kugler
 

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