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White Butterbur

Petasites albus

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asteraceae (Daisy)
Also in this family:
Alpine Blue Sow-thistle, Alpine Cotula, Alpine Fleabane, Alpine Saw-wort, Annual Ragweed, Annual Sunflower, Argentine Fleabane, Autumn Hawkbit, Autumn Oxeye, Beaked Hawksbeard, Beggarticks, Bilbao Fleabane, Black Knapweed, Black-eyed Susan, Blanketflower, Blue Fleabane, Blue Globe-thistle, Bristly Oxtongue, Broad-leaved Cudweed, Broad-leaved Ragwort, Brown Knapweed, Butterbur, Buttonweed, Cabbage Thistle, Canadian Fleabane, Canadian Goldenrod, Carline Thistle, Chalk Knapweed, Chamois Ragwort, Changing Michaelmas Daisy, Chicory, Chinese Mugwort, Chinese Ragwort, Coltsfoot, Common Blue Sow-thistle, Common Cat's-ear, Common Cudweed, Common Daisy, Common Dandelion, Common Fleabane, Common Goldenrod, Common Groundsel, Common Michaelmas Daisy, Common Mugwort, Common Ragwort, Common Wormwood, Coneflower, Confused Michaelmas Daisy, Corn Chamomile, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Cotton Thistle, Cottonweed, Creeping Thistle, Daisy Bush, Dwarf Cudweed, Dwarf Thistle, Early Goldenrod, Eastern Groundsel, Eastern Leopardsbane, Elecampane, English Hawkweed, Fen Ragwort, Feverfew, Field Fleawort, Field Wormwood, Fox and Cubs, French Tarragon, Gallant Soldier, Garden Lettuce, Giant Butterbur, Glabrous-headed Hawkweed, Glandular Globe-thistle, Glaucous Michaelmas Daisy, Globe Artichoke, Globe-thistle, Goat's Beard, Golden Ragwort, Golden Samphire, Goldilocks Aster, Grass-leaved Goldenrod, Great Lettuce, Greater Burdock, Greater Knapweed, Grey-headed Hawkweed, Guernsey Fleabane, Hairless Blue Sow-thistle, Hairless Leptinella, Hairy Michaelmas Daisy, Harpur Crewe's Leopardsbane, Hawkweed Oxtongue, Heath Cudweed, Heath Groundsel, Hemp Agrimony, Highland Cudweed, Hoary Mugwort, Hoary Ragwort, Hybrid Knapweed, Intermediate Burdock, Irish Fleabane, Jersey Cudweed, Jerusalem Artichoke, Lance-leaved Hawkweed, Lavender-cotton, Leafless Hawksbeard, Least Lettuce, Leopardplant, Leopardsbane, Leptinella, Lesser Burdock, Lesser Hawkbit, Lesser Sunflower, London Bur-marigold, Magellan Ragwort, Marsh Cudweed, Marsh Hawksbeard, Marsh Ragwort, Marsh Sow-thistle, Marsh Thistle, Meadow Thistle, Melancholy Thistle, Mexican Fleabane, Milk Thistle, Mountain Everlasting, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Musk Thistle, Narrow-leaved Cudweed, Narrow-leaved Hawkweed, Narrow-leaved Michaelmas Daisy, Narrow-leaved Ragwort, New England Hawkweed, New Zealand Holly, Nipplewort, Nodding Bur-marigold, Northern Hawksbeard, Norwegian Mugwort, Oxeye Daisy, Oxford Ragwort, Pearly Everlasting, Perennial Cornflower, Perennial Ragweed, Perennial Sow-thistle, Perennial Sunflower, Pineapple Mayweed, Plantain-leaved Leopardsbane, Ploughman's Spikenard, Plymouth Thistle, Pontic Blue Sow-thistle, Pot Marigold, Prickly Lettuce, Prickly Sow-thistle, Purple Coltsfoot, Rayed Tansy, Red Star Thistle, Red-seeded Dandelion, Red-tipped Cudweed, Robin's Plantain, Roman Chamomile, Rough Cocklebur, Rough Hawkbit, Rough Hawksbeard, Russian Lettuce, Safflower, Salsify, Saw-wort, Scented Mayweed, Scentless Mayweed, Sea Aster, Sea Mayweed, Sea Wormwood, Seaside Daisy, Shaggy Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shaggy Soldier, Shasta Daisy, Shetland Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shrub Ragwort, Sicilian Chamomile, Silver Ragwort, Slender Mugwort, Slender Thistle, Small Cudweed, Small Fleabane, Smooth Cat's-ear, Smooth Hawksbeard, Smooth Sow-thistle, Sneezeweed, Sneezewort, Spear Thistle, Spotted Cat's-ear, Spotted Hawkweed, Sticky Groundsel, Stinking Chamomile, Stinking Hawksbeard, Tall Fleabane, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Tansy, Thin-leaved Sunflower, Treasureflower, Trifid Bur-marigold, Tuberous Thistle, Tyneside Leopardplant, Viper's Grass, Wall Lettuce, Welsh Groundsel, Welted Thistle, White African Daisy, White Buttons, Willdenow's Leopardsbane, Winter Heliotrope, Wood Burdock, Wood Ragwort, Woody Fleabane, Woolly Thistle, Yarrow, Yellow Chamomile, Yellow Fox and Cubs, Yellow Oxeye, Yellow Star Thistle, Yellow Thistle, York Groundsel
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Mountains, riversides, roadsides, wasteland, woodland.

White, 5 petals
A compact flower spike of pure white flowers. The flowers have 5 narrow white petals. Insect pollinated.
The fruit is an achene with a white pappus. The seeds ripen in May.
Small rhubarb-like leaves although somewhat smaller and more heart-shaped. The leaves are covered in downy hairs. Leaf stalks are shaggy. The leaves appear after the flowers. Patch-forming. Perennial.
The flowers are fragrant.
Other Names:
Butterbur, Sweet Coltsfoot.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Petasites albus, also known as white butterbur or sweet coltsfoot, is a species of flowering plant in the family Asteraceae. It is native to Europe and is commonly found in damp, shaded areas, such as woodlands, along streams, and in wetland areas. P. albus is a herbaceous perennial that grows to a height of up to 1 meter. It has large, heart-shaped leaves and small, white flowers that bloom in the spring. The plant is valued for its medicinal properties and has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory problems and skin conditions. It is also used as a food source and is an important habitat plant for a variety of wildlife species. P. albus is also grown as an ornamental plant in gardens and is known for its ability to tolerate damp, shaded conditions.


White Butterbur (Petasites albus) is a wildflower that belongs to the daisy family. It is native to the damp meadows, marshes, and river banks of Europe, North Africa, and Asia. The plant is known for its large, white, and round flower clusters that bloom in early spring, and its large leaves that can grow up to a meter in diameter.

White Butterbur has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The roots and rhizomes of the plant contain compounds that have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and spasmolytic properties. This makes it an effective treatment for a range of health issues, including headaches, migraines, menstrual cramps, and respiratory problems.

In traditional medicine, White Butterbur was used to treat fever, digestive problems, and skin diseases. It was also believed to have sedative properties, making it useful for treating anxiety and sleep disorders. Today, it is most commonly used as a natural remedy for headaches and migraines.

Despite its long history of use, White Butterbur should be used with caution. Some studies have shown that the plant can cause liver damage, so it is important to consult a healthcare professional before using it for medicinal purposes. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the plant is sourced from a reputable supplier, as some species of butterbur contain toxic compounds.

White Butterbur is also a popular ornamental plant due to its attractive appearance and low maintenance requirements. It is ideal for planting in damp areas of the garden, such as near streams, ponds, and water features, where it can thrive in the moist soil. The plant's large leaves provide a lush and tropical feel, while the clusters of white flowers add a touch of spring beauty to the garden.

One of the most distinctive features of White Butterbur is its massive leaves, which can grow up to a meter in diameter. These leaves are heart-shaped and have a slightly glossy appearance, making them a great addition to any garden. The leaves appear before the flowers, providing early season interest in the garden.

Another benefit of White Butterbur is its ability to spread quickly and form large colonies, making it an ideal plant for erosion control on slopes or along river banks. It is also a good choice for creating wildlife habitats, as the plant provides food and shelter for a variety of insects, birds, and small mammals.

In addition to its ornamental and medicinal uses, White Butterbur has also been used for food in some cultures. The leaves can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable, and the rhizomes can be processed to make a flour that can be used for baking.

It's important to note that the species of Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) commonly sold in garden centers is not the same as White Butterbur (Petasites albus) and should be avoided for medicinal purposes. Petasites hybridus is toxic and can cause liver damage if consumed, while Petasites albus has been used safely for medicinal purposes for centuries.

When harvesting White Butterbur for medicinal use, it's important to gather the roots and rhizomes during the fall or winter, when the plant is dormant. The dried material can then be prepared as a tea, tincture, or extract. It's also available in tablet or capsule form as a dietary supplement.

White Butterbur should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, as its safety has not been established. It should also be avoided by individuals taking blood-thinning medications, as it may increase the risk of bleeding.

In conclusion, White Butterbur (Petasites albus) is a valuable plant with a long history of use for medicinal purposes. It should be used with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional, and it's important to ensure that the correct species is used for medicinal purposes. Whether planting it in the garden or using it as a natural remedy, White Butterbur offers a range of benefits and is a valuable addition to any landscape.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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