These two plants are both members of the Daisy family, Asteraceae or Compositae as it used to be called, perhaps because the flower heads are actually composed of many tiny florets. They are both also rather unusual in that the flowers come out before the leaves.
In 1996 Richard Mabey published Flora Brittanica – the definitive guide to wild flowers, plants and trees as it states on the cover. I think it will be on many botanist enthusiasts shelves, but not a field guide at A4 size and 40mm thick! It has interesting information on the common names and medicinal uses of plants and I have referred to it for some of the following information.
Butterbur can now be seen in damp places as it pushes through the soil. These pink heads are the male plants and are much more common than the female which locally can be seen in the small wood near Barden bridge.
As the leaves of Butterbur Petasites hybridus develop they become very large indeed , rivalling those of Rhubarb but the leaves are not shiny and are a paler green, giving ground cover to many places as summer progresses. Mabey says that the leaves really were used to wrap up butter before we all had fridges. The leaves are pliable enough to fold without breaking and thick enough to protect the butter, so a very recyclable material!
Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara is one of the earliest plants to flower, tussis relating to cough. Preparations from the leaves were used as a cough remedy and for sore throats and also as a herbal tobacco or as a substitute for the real tobacco plant.
I was surprised that Coltsfoot rock was still sold, and I remember it well in the days of sweet rationing. Apparently it is classed as medicinal so was available without the sweet coupons. It has an aniseed/ liquorice taste and is manufactured by a company in Oswaldtwistle who describe it as ‘our famous herbal infused Coltsfoot rock’ which has a steady sale in our local sweet shop.
There is a growing list of wild flowers now being seen locally – along with the above, Marsh Marigolds or Kingcups, Primroses, Sweet White Violets, Golden Saxifrage, Barren Strawberry and Dog’s Mercury.