General – a perennial from slender, creeping rhizomes; flowering stems stout (appear before leaves); growing up to 50 cm tall.
Sweet Coltsfoot Leaves – round to heart- or kidney-shaped at stem base. 5 – 20 cm wide, deeply divided (more than halfway to centre), into 5 to 7 toothed lobes, green, essentially hairless above, thinly white-woolly below; stem leaves reduced to alternate bracts.
Flowers – in clusters of several to many white, 8 – 12 mm wide heads on glandular, often white-woolly stalks, mostly female or mostly male; ray flowers creamy white; disc flowers whitish to pinkish; involucres 7 – 16 mm high, bracts lance-shaped, hairy at base.; appearing early-summer.
Fruit – hairless, linear achenes, about 2 mm long, 5 to 10 ribs; pappus soft, white; appearingmid-summer.
Moist woods and openings, and wetlands; widespread across boreal forest and northern parkland to Great Bear Lake and eastern Yukon.
Some native groups chewed the roots or made them into a tea to treat chest ailments (tuberculosis and asthma), rheumatism, sore throats, and stomach ulcers. Coltsfoot leaves and flowers were steeped in hot water to make a tea for people suffering from diarrhea. Strong doses have been reported to cause abortion. Coltsfoot has been widely used as a medicine over the years. It was once the official sign of the French apothecaries.