Mar 13 2009

Coltsfoot or What to Look For in Late March

Published by at 5:45 pm under Phenology

Coltsfoot blooming (photo from Wikipedia under GNU Free License)Spring is really kicking in at last!  I am so excited by new flowers that I take pictures of them with my lousy cell phone camera.

Here’s a flower you can expect to see soon, and a better photo from Wikipedia than I could ever achieve.  It’s coltsfoot, a non-native species that came here with European settlers, perhaps for use as a cough suppressant.

Coltsfoot is one of the earliest flowers to bloom.  It grows in waste places so you’ll see it by the side of the road.  People sometimes mistake it for dandelion but coltsfoot blooms when no leaves are apparent and it has tiny leaf bracts on its stems.   Its basal leaves are shaped like the footprint of a colt, hence the name “colts’ foot.”

There will be lots of other signs of spring in the next two weeks.  Chuck Tague listed many of them in his late March phenology.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Ducks, ducks and more ducks!  Look for these migrants on local lakes.
  • More songbirds will arrive including tree swallows, eastern phoebes, eastern meadowlarks and eastern bluebirds.
  • Watch for blooming forsythia, snow trillium, harbinger of spring, violets, and of course coltsfoot.
  • Frogs are singing and mating.  I heard spring peepers at Middle Creek last weekend.   And if you hear ducks quacking from the ground in a swampy area, it could well be wood frogs.  Years ago I was fooled by wood frogs at Friendship Hill as I searched and searched an empty wet field for ducks.  None.  Eventually it dawned on me.  Wood frogs!
  • Skunks and groundhogs are coming out of their winter dens and dining along the grassy roadside edges.  Watch out when you drive!  They move slowly.
  • American woodcocks (also called timberdoodles) ”peent” and twitter in their aerial mating dance.  I heard one very close to my car before dawn at Middle Creek but could not see it.   Here’s what I heard.
  • Peregrine nesting season is in full swing and I will do my best not to make this blog into ”All Peregrines All the Time.”  Oh, it will be hard!

Look for signs of spring in your neighborhood and let me know what you find.

(photo from Wikipedia, GNU Free License)

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Coltsfoot or What to Look For in Late March”

  1. John Englishon 14 Mar 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Coltsfoot was called “son before the father” by the Native Americans, because the blossom did appear before the leaves. They also dried and powdered the leaves to make a salt substitute.

  2. Kim Steiningeron 15 Mar 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Not in my neighborhood, but little baby owlets falling from their nests is a sure sign of spring!

    How about an “All Peregrines Most of the Time” blog? :)

  3. Lydiaon 16 Mar 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I just saw some Coltsfoot in Riverview Park this weekend. I didn’t know the name. Now I know. There are snow drops up in the garden next to my house and there are crocus blooming in the rock garden of the National Aviary.

  4. endmenton 18 Mar 2009 at 12:16 am

    Really enjoyed this post — Heading out to look for signs :)

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