Colt's-foot, Leopard's-banes & Similar Species

Common Leopard's-bane Eastern Leopard's-bane Plantain-leaved Leopard's-bane Common Colt's-foot

What are they?

These plants are all members of the daisy and dandelion family - the Asteraceae - and this is evident by the small flowers (or florets) which are borne in compound clusters so as to look like one, big flower. The outer florets have narrow petals, or rays, while the inner florets are without rays and form a button-like centre, making them more like yellow versions of daisies, rather than dandelions. In this group, the plants tend to be herbacous perennials that die down over winter. Thus, they consist largely of soft, green (not woody) stems and the flowerheads are carried singly or in just small clusters towards the top of the stems. This is in contrast to the ragworts and fleabanes, that tend to develop woody stems - at least at the base - and have flowerheads generally clustered in larger groups on many-branched stems.

Where are they found?

This group of plants consists mostly of species that occur uncommonly as garden throw-outs or escapes, so they are not likely to be found too often - with the one exception of Colt's-foot. Most species may be found on grassy road verges or waste ground in urban or semi urban areas, while some may also appear as extended colonies, spreading out from original plantings in churchyards or near parks or gardens. The native Colt's-foot may be found on heavy, often clayey soils, especially where the ground is compacted.

Identification

As with so many members of the daisy family, checking the phyllaries (the green bracts at the base of the flowerhead) can be important for identification. A combination of plant height plus leaf shape will sort out a number of the species, while the leopard's-banes may need a closer look at the leaf hairs, too.



Common Colt's-foot      Tussilago farfara

A common plant throughout the region, especially on rich, heavy soils but does well in many areas where other plants struggle, such as on sea cliffs, railway ballast, old industrial sites and other areas of waste ground. Flowers March to April, with the flowers appearing from bare ground before the leaves in small clusters on bare stems with scale-like bracts. The leaves begin to emerge as the flowers mature and set seed, at first being clothed in dense white hairs. The leaves continue to grow and expand to some 30cm across and form often quite large colonies from underground rhizomes. Leaf margins are shallowly lobed, the lobe teeth have blackish tips to them.

Common Colt's-foot Common Colt's-foot Common Colt's-foot Common Colt's-foot
Habit
Flowerhead
Phyllaries
Leaf


Common Leopard's-bane      Doronicum pardalianches

Introduced from Europe as a garden plant and occasionally found surviving from an earlier planting or from garden waste. Flowers April to May. A relatively strong-growing species and the most common species so far recorded in East Anglia, although spearating it from possible hybrids with other leopard's-bane species can be problematic. Flowerheads usually carried singly on long stems, held well above the leaves. Leaves broadly cordate (heart-shaped) at the base, petioles with rather long, shaggy hairs on them.

Common Leopard's-bane Common Leopard's-bane Common Leopard's-bane Common Leopard's-bane
Habit
Phyllaries
Leaf
Petiole hairs


Plantain-leaved Leopard's-bane      Doronicum plantagineum

Introduced from Europe as a garden plant. Recorded from a small number of locations scattered across the region and sometimes forming small colonies in shady places. Flowers April to May. A rather upright species, with flowerheads carried three to eight per stem. Leaves are relatively narrow, tapering into the petiole at the base.

Plantain-leaved Leopard's-bane Plantain-leaved Leopard's-bane Plantain-leaved Leopard's-bane Plantain-leaved Leopard's-bane
Habit
Flowerhead
Flowering stem
Leaf


Eastern Leopard's-bane      Doronicum columnae

Introduced from Europe as a garden plant. Recorded from just one or two locations scattered across the region. Flowers April to May. A low, clump forming species with flowerheads carried singly on relatively short stems. Leaves deeply rounded at the base and strongly toothed at the margins. Perhaps most likely to occur as the garden cultivar 'Miss Mason'.

Eastern Leopard's-bane Eastern Leopard's-bane Eastern Leopard's-bane
Habit
Habit
Leaf


Elecampane      Inula helenium

Introduced from Europe as a garden plant but also formerly used as a culinary and medicinal plant as far back as the 10th Century. Persists at a few grassy places in Suffolk. Flowers July to August. A tall, stately plant, growing to 150cm in height and bearing large, dock-like leaves that are wonderfully velvety below with white hairs.

Elecampane Elecampane Elecampane Elecampane
Flowerheads
Phyllaries
Leaf
Leaf underside


Cup-plant      Silphium perfoliatum

Introduced from Europe as a garden plant and once recorded as a garden survivor on rough ground in Suffolk. Flowers July to August. A tall plant, growing to 150cm or more in height. The best identification feature are the leaf-like bracts below the flowerheads, which are joined together at the base to form a round, cup-like structure around the stem.

Cup-plant Cup-plant Cup-plant Cup-plant
Habit
Flowerhead
Phyllaries
Cup-like bracts


Toothed Leopardplant      Ligularia dentata

Introduced from Europe as a garden plant and recorded as a garden survivor on rough ground in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Flowers July to August. Variable in height but may reach 120cm in good growing conditions. Plants grow from a creeping rhizome, which can spread to form patches of kidney- or horseshoe-shaped leaves, resembling those of the muvh more common Winter Heliotrope at first glance. Flowers appear in a well-branched, spreading cluster, held well above the leaves. The phyllaries are short and thick, almost fleshy.

Toothed Leopardplant Toothed Leopardplant Toothed Leopardplant
Flowerhead
Phyllaries
Leaf