This is the same Coltsfoot that our grandmothers used to gather and dry and hang in the garret along with their Boneset, Catnip, Goldthread, and a various assortment of garden herbs. Coltsfoot was considerably used at one time as a family remedy for coughs and colds, and many a steaming cupful has been sipped by country people for this purpose. Its Latin name, an old one used by Pliny, is derived from tussis, a cough, and ago, alluding to the medicinal use of the leaves. The ancients smoked the leaves of Coltsfoot for relief in cases of asthma. Its fresh juice has been used for affections of the skin, and in Germany the dried leaves are said to be used as a substitute for smoking tobacco. The flowers of the Coltsfoot look something like those of an imperfectly developed, or half-opened Dandelion, but where the flower heads of the Dandelion are slightly tufted or raised toward the centre, those of the Coltsfoot are cupped or hollowed, more like an Aster, with a finely fringed edge. The rather large, solitary flower 'is borne on a thick, hollow, light green stem, rising direct from the long, slender, creeping perennial root from four to eighteen inches in height. It is usually stained with red and is covered with numerous scalelike and alternating leaflets. The light yellow flower head is of a lighter shade than that of the Dandelion, and is set in a deep, leafy, thimble-shaped green cup. It is composed of many ray and disc florets - an arrangement fully explained in the description of the Asters. The ray florets are fringe-like, and the small disc florets are five-parted. They have an agreeable odour, and as they fade, they turn to red-brown.
They close at noon in the hot sun. These flowers are usually in bloom before the Dandelions. The leaves do not appear until after the flowers have matured. At first they are rounded and heart-shaped, but finally become larger and more angled. Their surface is soft and cottony, and is strongly marked with ribs and veinings. They are thin-textured, and their margins are more or less toothed. They are silvery on the under side, and are set on long, grooved stems that rise from the rootstock. Coltsfoot may be found from April to June, from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to Massachusetts, New York and Minnesota, where it has become naturalized from Europe. It prefers moist banks along roadways and streams.