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Colt's foot

(Tussilago farfara)

Photo of Colt's foot
Photo credit: Jan Samanek, State Phytosanitary Administration,

Herbaceous perennial superficially resembling small common dandelion. It spreads mainly by underground rhizomes.


Other names for this plant include:
  • Common names: Horsehoof, coughwort, bull's foot, foalswort
  • Scientific names: None
Ecological threat:
  • Recognized as invasive and banned in numerous states throughout the country.
  • Invades forests, riparian areas, wetlands, grasslands, lake edges, marshes, fens, sand dunes, as well as upland and disturbed areas.
  • Tolerant of many soil types and conditions, but requires some consistent soil moisture.
  • Forms large stands and reduces the number of native species in the herb layer.
  • A single plant can produce thousands of seeds with high germination rates.
 Overview map of prohibited classification in WI
Prohibited (red) counties

Classification in Wisconsin: Prohibited

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for Colt's foot was based upon this literature review [PDF] developed by the department.


Leaves & stems: Leaves emerge after flowering, as a small basal rosette. Stems have alternate leaves with one leaf per node. Deciduous leaves are heart-shaped with long petioles (stalk that attaches the leaf to stem). The upper sides of the leaves are dark green and smooth, almost waxy. Undersides of the leaves are covered in fuzzy white-felt. Flowering stems are covered in wooly hairs. Numerous flowering stems arise from one root crown. During flowering, stems are 2-6 inches tall and can reach up to 20 inches at flower maturity.

Flowers: Radial flowers have numerous yellow, fertile ray florets around the periphery, and sterile disc florets in the center. Single flowers occur at the end of the flowering stems. Flower heads range from 1-1.25 inches wide.

Fruits & seeds: Resemble the common dandelion. Seeds are achenes (single seed) attached to pappus (feather-like structure). On average, one plant can produce 100 to 1,000 seeds per flowering head.

Roots: Plants have a primary taproot, with deep, extensive rhizomes.

Similar species: This plant resembles common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale; non-native), but can be distinguished by the wooly white undersides of leaves and by small purple bracts on flowering stems.


Increased vegetation density and overstory cover has shown to decrease colt's foot abundance; therefore, the reintroduction of native vegetation following any control procedure is highly recommended.

  • Manual removal of plants can be challenging for large populations, initial infestations may be controlled by hand pulling. Residual roots left in the soil may resprout.
  • It is critical that all of the underground portions of the plant are removed.
  • Pulling when the ground is moist may make it easier to remove the entire plant.
  • Pull before the plant has set-seed to reduce further spread.
  • This species is resistant to many of the more commonly used and/or selective herbicides (e.g. 2,4-D, dicamba, MCPA, 2-4DB).
  • One study in England found a mixture of 2-(2,4,5-trichlorophenoxy) propionic acid (silvex) and MCPA (2-methyl-4-chloropheonoxyacetic acid) gave 90% control in a wheat crop.
  • A 2% solution of glyphosate or triclopyr and water plus a non-ionic surfactant using a tank or backpack sprayer to thoroughly cover all leaves.
  • Treatments should be done in the summer when the leaves of coltsfoot are fully developed.


View colt's foot pictures in our photo gallery!


Sources for content:
  • Innes, Robin J. 2011. Tussilago farfara. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [2020, Feb. 19].
  • Global Invasive Species Database;
  • Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health;
  • US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service
Links for more information: