The German name for this pretty species translates literally as “mean cat’s foot”, however, “mean” isn’t used in the sense of “nasty” or “horrible” but in the sense of “ordinary”. The name “Catsfoot” refers to the shape of the inflorescences, which are somewhat reminiscent of a cat’s footprint.
The Common Catsfoot grows to about 25 cm and has silvery hairy leaves that are similar to those of the edelweiss. The species has all-male and all-female plants, which can be easily distinguished by the inflorescence: the pretty pink “cat paws” are the female plants, while the male plants bloom in pure white.
Facts and Figures
Catsfoot was formerly used medicinally to treat respiratory diseases such as asthma as well as diarrhoea, and kidney and urinary tract infections due to its bile-stimulating effect. There are also all sorts of superstitions surrounding this unusual plant: it is said that a bunch of catsfoot in the house or stable helps to guard against storms or lightning strikes.
The Common Catsfoot is very widely distributed and can be found in countries as diverse as Ireland and Japan. This species is common throughout Switzerland, except in the Central Plateau. It can also be found almost everywhere on the Gornergrat.