Sunday, April 10, 2011

Roadside flowers

I will resume coverage of my Adams County flora expedition shortly, but first I want to wrap up my "roadside" series (remember the Roadside vernal puddle and the Roadside slip?).

While I was out and about recently I was reminded that I need to post about Coltsfoot, one of our earliest-blooming spring wildflowers. It's also one of the most visible due to it's bright yellow color. We've had some warm and sunny days here lately, and the Coltsfoot blossoms are out in full force.

Coltsfoot may look at first glance like a Dandelion to the uninitiated, but closer inspection will reveal the differences (this could get a little technical - please bear with me).

Coltsfoot is comprised of both ray and disk flowers, whereas Dandelions have ray flowers only.

Coltsfoot, with disk flowers in the center and ray flowers radiating out from the center.

Dandelion, with only ray flowers.

I can't resist sharing these side by side - these are photos of Coltsfoot taken about a week apart. The disk flowers in the photo on the left are mostly closed up tight, except for a few on the outer edge, but after a week they really begin to open up, as seen in the photo on the right.

Another key difference is that the leaves of Coltsfoot do not show themselves until after the flower is gone. Dandelion leaves precede the flowers, often a cue for those who like their lawns manicured that they had better call the lawn treatment service.

The leaves of Coltsfoot, with nary a trace of the flower stalk left. These leaves might as well have a note on them that says "Coltsfoot was here."

The leaves of the Dandelion in what is called a "basal rosette" formation. This is probably one of the most easily recognized set of plant leaves in American due to the Dandelion's reputation as a nasty "weed" and ruiner of lawns.

I happen to find Dandelions to be quite handsome and striking, so I don't mind them in my yard. One of the many reasons that I live on rural property - no expectations of a manicured lawn here!

While they have their differences, there are quite a few similarities between Coltsfoot and Dandelions, such as:
  • Both are members of the Aster family.
  • Both have only 1 flower per stalk.
  • Both are non-native flowers originally from Eurasia
  • Both are named for the shape of their leaves (AND both of those names are based on similarities to some animal: dent de lion (translated from the French as "lion's teeth") due to the jagged edges of the leaves for Dandelion; and, well... I think Coltsfoot is pretty self-explanatory - the leaf is said to look like a colt's foot).

Both are quite prolific, but Coltsfoot only blooms during the spring, whereas you will find Dandelions in bloom from spring to fall, and maybe even during winter if you get a stretch of sunny, warm-ish days. And while you can find fields full of dandelions in some places, I feel like Coltsfoot can be observed in "colonies," if you will.

A roadside colony of Coltsfoot in a ditch near our house - a profusion of yellow and cheer in early spring.

There are certainly more dainty flowers to be found in early spring, as I will show you when I return to the Adams County floral expedition, but seeing such showy and bright flowers as Coltsfoot are a blatant sign that spring truly has sprung.


Weedpicker said...

Great post!

I especially liked the close up of Coltsfoot- excellent photography!

Red said...

Really like how you lay stuff out in your posts. I can learn something.

Meg said...

It is I write this, but YES, what a lovely sign of spring our bright little coltsfoot is. Thank you for showing the differences between it and dandelion. I know this flower well now, because of your blog--last year's post and this one.

Heather said...

Cheryl - Thanks. I find Coltsfoot to be very photogenic.

Red - That's what I like to hear. Happy to pass the knowledge along.

Meg - Raining? You're kidding. =nudge, nudge= Hey, do you remember that curly grass that I put photos up of a few months ago? I found out that stuff's called Poverty Grass. I thought of you when I learned it, since you asked me about it when I posted it.