Japanese Butterbur can grow leaves the size of a small child. Also known as Swamp Rhubarb and Giant Coltsfoot, Japanese butterbur can grow leaves to an impressive four feet in diameter. The huge leaves shade out other plants, leaving bare ground, which can lead to erosion.
Its exotic foliage is the reason this plant was imported from Asia, but it’s also a growing concern, as it’s an invasive plant that is here in Vermont. Invasives come from other parts of the globe and now live in a place without the natural controls found back home. Invasives outcompete native plants, take over fields and forests, and alter the landscape.
A sharp eye and good instincts led Black River Action Team volunteer Rhonda Benoit to recently spot butterbur in Woodstock.
While Benoit plans to help the Woodstock Conservation Commission do preliminary scouting near the Ottauquechee River for more butterbur, you can also do your part by reporting invasives. The plant’s roots spread rapidly, especially in shady, damp soil that is often found along rivers, streams, ponds, and wetlands. If you see what you suspect might be butterbur, take a photo and note as precisely as possible where you spotted it. Then, log onto VT Invasives and report it.
The photograph shows the invasive butterbur (left) with the native coltsfoot leaves (right) for comparison.
The only other known population of butterbur in Vermont is in Burlington.
Photo courtesy of Rhonda Benoit.