Senecio squalidus   Oxford Ragwort I

Senecio squalidus whole Senecio squalidus close

First introduced from Italy into Oxford botanic gardens, this first started to appear on the walls outside the garden near the Bodleian Library in 1794. It didn't spread far at first, still being recorded from only one or two sites at the end of the 19th century but during the 20th century it spread along railway lines and found a liking for waste places and bombed sites after WW2. Now I would expect to find it almost anywhere in England although it has yet to cover all Ireland and Scotland.

When I first started botanising I wasn't at all sure of the difference between this plant and the native Senecio jacobaea (Common Ragwort) but then the big difference dawned - they start flowering at totally different times of the year. You can find Senecio squalidus beginning to flower even in March but Senecio jacobaea is a plant of high summer. They do actually have quite different habits too with S. squalidus having larger more attractive flowers and a spreading habit where Senecio jacobaea is a field plant with flowers at the top of a strong, tall stem.

Now common throughout England except in the far north, records begin to tail off as you go into Scotland but as in England, it is most common in the industrialised areas. It is not common in Ireland where most records are from eastern coastal sites.

Senecio squalidus

Senecio squalidus Oxford Ragwort

Llandudno west shore, North Wales 3rd June 2008

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Senecio squalidus Oxford Ragwort

LHS: Llandudno west shore, North Wales 3rd June 2008 RHS, Abergele, North Wales 25th April 2005

Added on November 8th 2004, amended on February 3rd 2005, updated 6th February 2012

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