Ajuntament de Barcelona

Petasites fragrans

Joan Brossa Garden

    Catalan name: 
    Spanish name: 
    English name: 
    Winter heliotrope
    Botanical synonyms: 
    Petasites pyrenaicus, Tussilago fragrans
    Species characteristics
    Northern Africa
    Grasslands in trodden, shadowy and humid places

    Perennial herb, with stems up to 30 cm tall, which appear in winter if they are flowering. Some of the stems are rhizomas (underground growing stems looking like roots).

    The leaves, 2-5 and 5-20 cm in diameter, are flaky. The bottom ones' base is shealther and the middle ones (3-7 cm long) have a very rudimentary sheet. The shape varies from similar to a kidney to similar to a heart. The margin is finely jagged and the lower side is hairy.

    The light violet flowers, smelling of vanilla, appear into 6-20 small capitula (inflorescences in which the peduncle makes a disk that is surrounded by bracts), 7-10.5 mm, with light green or purple bracts. The central flowers of the capitulum are tubulose and the marginal ones are libulate.

    The fruit is a cipsela (nut that doesn't open spontaneously to release the seeds), formed by a cylindrical glabrous achenium and a hairy pappus; the hairs are abundose on the fruits coming from feminine flowers and scarcer on the ones that come from masculine flowers.

    Flowering time: 
    Uses and properties: 

    Medicine properties on the Winter Heliotrope are well known since ancient times. Its leaves are very rich in Vitamin C either used fresh or in salad.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name, Petasites fragrans, consists of the genus name Petasites, coming from from the Greek πέτασος, round hat with a wide and flat brim that was used by shepherds, and the Latin term fragrans, “fragrant, aromatic”.

    In Scotland, the women used the winter heliotrope as pillow and mattress stuffing, a use that is parallel to the goldfinches' one (they use the pappus of the winter heliotrope to pad the nest).

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