COLTS FOOT: TUSSILAGO FARFARA
The first, conspicuous wildflower in Deering is colts foot, Tussilgo farfara. Its brilliant yellow, daisy-like flowers appear soon after snow has gone in wet ditches, roadsides and generally open or shaded, disturbed areas. What you see early in spring is leafless stalks arising from the ground, each topped by a single flower. After flowering the head becomes all fluffy and white, dandelion-like, with windborne seed. Leaves of this species only appear later, after flowering and if you were not in the know (as some of my friends have been), you would not realize that these big green leaves belong to coltsfoot.
Coltsfoot is an European native but it has a very wide boreal distribution. It is most common in disturbed wet areas, such as drainage ditches. The plant has many medicinal uses. However, it contains several toxins and may cause serious harm, including liver damage and cancer.
CYPRESS SPURGE: EUPHORBIA CYPARISSIAS
Cypress spurge forms large colonies in disturbed areas, lawns and meadows, visible now for their yellow green flowers in mass. Cypress spurge is a native of Europe that is widespread in North America. It was introduced into the USA late in the 19th Century as an ornamental but is considered to be an aggressive invasive that is difficult to eradicate.
YELLOW ROCKET: BARBARAEA VULGARIS
I have seen yellow rocket in a few places in Deering this year. The plants stand singly or in groups of a few, up to 18″ tall in full sun. With their racemes of bright yellow flowers you can’t miss them now.
Yellow rocket has been introduced into North America multiple times. The species is native to Eurasia. It is considered to be a noxious weed in some states but not invasive. It is a member of the brassica family, so think of cabbage and cresses. Young leaves are said to be edible but older leaves bitter. The flower stalk that we see this year arose from a rosette of leaves that were here last year. The flowers are pollinated by bees and flies.