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Sweet Colt's-foot (Petasites sagittatus)

Life history

Species overview

Sweet Colt's-foot (Petasites sagittatus), a Wisconsin Threatened plant, is found in cold marshes and swamp openings, often forming large clones. Blooming occurs throughout May; fruiting occurs throughout June. The optimal identification period for this species is late May through late August.

Synonyms: Petasites dentatus, P. frigidus var. sagittatus, Tussilago sagittata


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distinguished by combination of white flowers and toothed (vs. lobed) basal leaves.
  • Flower characteristics: Inflorescence in a raceme or corymb-shape; whitish flowers, the outer 10 to 25 in pistillate heads; rays commonly 8 to 9 mm.
  • Fruit characteristics: Cypselae (achene surrounded by calyx sheath) 3 to 3.5 mm long, ribbed.
  • Leaf characteristics: Basal leaves triangular-ovate, cordate or more commonly arrow-shaped and downward-pointing at the base, to 30 cm, pinnipalmately veined, with 20 to 45 teeth on each side, densely white-hairy beneath.


  • Blooming phenology: throughout May
  • Fruiting phenology: throughout June
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is late May through late August


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Calamagrostis canadensis, Salix petiolaris, Alnus rugosa, Cornus stolonifera, Carex stricta, Sparganium glomeratum.This species hybridizes with Petasites palmatus.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Sweet Colt's-foot (Petasites sagittatus). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Petasites sagittatus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS3
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in cold marshes and swamp openings, often forming large clones.
  • Soils: Wet soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Sweet Colt's-foot. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Sweet Colt's-foot. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid locating landings, staging areas, or access routes on or near known populations.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • Follow BMPs, especially around streams and use care near ravines, steep slopes, cliffs, rock outcrops, etc.


Sweet Colt's-foot Photo.

Photo © Emmet Judziewicz.

Sweet Colt's-foot Photo.

Petasites sagittatus

Photo © Steve Garske.

Sweet Colt's-foot Photo.

Petasites sagittatus

Photo © Steve Garske.

Sweet Colt's-foot Photo.

Photo © June Dobberpuhl.

Sweet Colt's-foot Photo.

Photo © June Dobberpuhl.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition