A quartet of coltsfoot

A quartet of coltsfoot, another early bloomer that’s easy to overlook as it looks kinda weedy from a distance and grows in wet marshy ground. But get close up and it shows off its lovely florets, not to mention its pretty good golf ball impression. Enough to make anyone smile 🙂

It was only last year that I truly appreciated the flowers of palmate coltsfoot for the first time. I’d taken photos of it before and generally thought it was a straggly-looking plant without much in the way of interesting flowers. After being put firmly right I decided that this year I would endeavour to take some photos that showed just how nice a flower it really is. My favourite photo is probably the first one, showing the florets as they begin to flower.

From a distance, the florets don’t look like much – just some dots on the end of green stems. Then there’s the fact it grows in wet places which likely puts off most people from getting anywhere near it in the first place. The second photo is my attempt to show this with the muddy stream I had to jump across and NW Marine Drive in the background. See what I mean? Why would anyone stop to take a closer look at these flowers? I’m sure I got a few strange looks from passing cyclists and car occupants as I stooped and crouched to get the angles I wanted.

The most obvious feature of coltsfoot when it’s in bloom is its golf-ball-like head of florets on a cabbage-green stalk, surrounded by a handful of leaves. This year I was pleased to find a really lovely golf-ball impression with the third photo. OK so it doesn’t look quite as much like a golf ball when viewed close up, but from a distance it’s quite convincing. I really like how the florets look a bit like birds’ nests complete with eggs in this photo.

Finally, like a floral firework, the florets open out to produce a veritable feast for pollinators with dozens of tiny flowers to visit. The fourth photo caught my eye as it looks a bit like a smiley face. Doesn’t it? 🙂

So there you go – a quick tour of an under-appreciated wildflower. Maybe it’ll tempt you to check it out for yourself?

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Coltsfoot close up

I hadn’t appreciated just how cute the tiny florets of palmate coltsfoot could be, especially since it’s quite a straggly-looking plant that favours wet, swampy conditions

I was pleased to find this flower a few years back (and posted a photo last spring as well) on account of it being a favourite of a late friend of ours, but I had to admit I didn’t really see the attraction. It doesn’t grow in pretty areas – I’ve mostly found it in boggy ditches – the flower head looks kinda messy, like it’s unravelling, and the overall impression is of an unforgettable flower. So when I saw them growing this year along the Capilano Pacific trail, I stooped to take a few snapshots (more out of a sense of duty than anything else) but didn’t really pay close attention to what I was photographing.

It was only when I got home and looked through the handful of photos that I realized what I’d got: for once, I’d captured the coltsfoot flower at the moment it actually blooms. All I’d seen before was just the pre-bloom flower when the florets look like budding dandelions (or similar). The tiny pink-and-white florets are really quite pretty little star-like flowers. So maybe that’s why our friend liked them so much? Either way, it’s given me a whole new appreciation of this flower, and I’ll be on the lookout for its alpine relative when it blooms later in the year.

Coltsfoot

Palmate coltsfoot, one of the first spring time wildflowers

I was out for a pre-migraine bike ride (though I didn’t know it at the time…) and, knowing it was Wildflower Wednesday, headed out towards Spanish Banks where I suspected that there would be a flower or two for me to photograph. Salmonberry blooms early, as I mentioned in last Saturday’s post but it’s a shrub and not a flower. Coltsfoot, on the other hand, is one of the earliest wildflowers to bloom. It’s not a particularly pretty flower, though it does make for a striking photo with its head of blooms radiating out in all directions.

It was also one of the favourites of a late friend of ours, who was also a huge fan of wildflowers and would head to the southern Gulf Islands every spring to catch the bloom there. Sadly we never got the chance to accompany her on any of these trips, so we try to remember her every year by noting when the coltsfoot blooms.

I’ve also seen it recently on the access road up to Mt Seymour, where we passed a couple of sizeable flower patches. Basically, anywhere there’s a damp ditch is a good candidate though it’s not actually that common. Maybe it’s outcompeted by the mare’s tails and skunk cabbage?