Until 1985, Concord had no official record of coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) growing within the town. Though introduced to North America several centuries ago, likely for its profound medicinal value for the lungs, Tussilago typically grows and spreads in disturbed areas and is considered a "noxious" weed in many parts of the country.
While intensively studying Concord's historic and still extant flora in the 1970-80's, Ray Angelo found the first small patch of Tussilago alongside the long abandoned Reformatory Branch RR bed. Minot Pratt recorded having introduced the plant back in the mid-1800's, but no traces were recorded by any of the local botanists who followed him. I found the hoof-shaped leaves of this small patch last October, growing on an oak leaf carpeted shoreline near the same abandoned RR bed further east in Concord, and set out with my homeschool students last Friday to look for the flowers. Both of these modest patches were likely seeded at least some 80 years ago when trains ran this line through town from Cambridge.
This week while out exploring vernal pools with my students, a spontaneous bushwack from one trail to another serendipitously brought us to a third small patch of coltsfoot, some 1000' from an active trainline. From a single town record to three, all in undisturbed and sheltered locations and all likely to have been historically seeded by passing trains.
|Coltsfoot leaves distinctively resemble horses hooves, these photographed on 10.1.13.|