Groundsel Senecio vulgaris

'The breeze is stopt the lazy boughHath not a leaf that dances nowHawkweed and groundsels fairey downsUnruffld keep their seeding crowns’ - John Clare, “The Shepherd’s Calendar’

Description

A common annual weed of rough and cultivated ground, its clusters of small yellow flowers appear on road verges, in gardens and waste ground throughout the year.

How to spot it

The leaves are bright shiny green, long and raggedly lobed. The small yellow flower heads are in cluster at the ends of the stems appearing to emerge from little tubes.

Where it grows

Groundsel is an annual weed of cultivated or disturbed ground, cropping up along field edges, roadside verges and on waste grounds.

Best time to see

Can be found in flower throughout the year.

How's it doing?

Continues to be widespread throughout the British Isles, although there appears to have been a decline in the Scottish Highlands, possibly due to abandoning of marginal cultivations.

3 things you might not know

  • Both birds and rabbits enjoy the leaves and seeds, and it is widely used as food for caged birds.
  • Its name comes from an Old English word grundeswilige meaning ‘ground swallower’, reflecting its tendency to grow profusely wherever it gets a chance.
  • Groundsel is a good food source for caterpillars of butterflies and moths and is one of only two plant species that provide food for cinnabar moth caterpillars.