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Botanical Name: Senecio vulgaris
Species: S. vulgaris
Synonyms: (Scotch) Grundy Swallow, Ground Glutton.
(Norfolk) Simson, Sention
Common Names: Vernacular names for Senecio vulgaris in English include old-man-in-the-spring, common groundsel, groundsel, ragwort, grimsel, grinsel, grundsel, simson, birdseed, chickenweed, old-man-of-the-spring, squaw weed, grundy swallow, ground glutton and common butterweed.
Habitat : Senecio vulgaris is considered to be native to Europe, northern Asia, and parts of North Africa. Its further distribution is less clear. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service Plants Profile Database considers it to be native to all 50 of the United States of America, Canada, Greenland, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, the same USDA through the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) considers it to be native only to parts of Afro-Eurasia. The Integrated Taxonomic Information System Organization (ITIS), a partnership between many United States federal government departments and agenciesstates that the species has been introduced to the 50 United States, and the online journal Flora of North America calls it “probably introduced” to areas north of Mexico. Individual research groups claim it is not native to areas they oversee: Florida, Washington, Wisconsin, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Missouri. The United States Geological Survey reports that Common Groundsel is exotic to all 50 states and all Canadian provinces with the exception of Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Labrador. It is found along roadsides and waste places, it is also a common weed of cultivated land, succeeding on most soils but avoiding shade.
Senecio vulgaris is an annual plant, the root consisting of numerous white fibres and the round or slightly angular stem, erect, 6 inches to nearly 1 foot in height, often branching at the top, is frequently purple in colour. It is juicy, not woody, and generally smooth, though sometimes bears a little loose, cottony wool. The leaves are oblong, wider and clasping at the base, a dull, deep green colour, much cut into (pinnatifid), with irregular, blunt-toothed or jagged lobes, not unlike the shape of oak leaves. The cylindrical flower-heads, each about 1/4 inch long and 1/8 inch across, are in close terminal clusters or corymbs, the florets yellow and all tubular; the scales surrounding the head and forming the involucre are narrow and black-tipped, with a few small scales at their base. The flowers are succeeded by downy heads of seeds, each seed being crowned by little tufts of hairs, by means of which they are freely dispersed by the winds. Groundsel is in flower all the year round and scatters an enormous amount of seed in its one season of growth, one plant if allowed to seed producing one million others in one year.
A variety of Senecio vulgaris, named S. radiata (Koch), with minute rays to the outer florets, is found in the Channel Islands.
Cultivation: A common weed of cultivated land, it does not require cultivation. Groundsel is a good food plant for the caterpillars of many butterfly and moth species, and is one of only two species that provide food for cinnabar moth caterpillars. One report states that this plant was formerly cultivated as a food crop for livestock! Since the plant is a cumulative toxin this use is most questionable.
Propagation: Seed – it doesn’t need any encouragement from us.
Edible Uses: Leaves – cooked or raw. The young leaves have been used in many areas as a salad, though this is very inadvisable, see the notes on toxicity at the top of the pag.
Anthelmintic; Anticonvulsant; Antiscorbutic; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Homeopathy; Poultice; Purgative.
Senecio vulgaris has a long history of herbal use and, although not an officinal plant, it is still often used by herbalists. The whole herb is anthelmintic, antiscorbutic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue and purgative. It is often used as a poultice and is said to be useful in treating sickness of the stomach, whilst a weak infusion is used as a simple and easy purgative. The plant can be harvested in May and dried for later use, or the fresh juice can be extracted and used as required. Use with caution. This plant should not be used by pregnant women, see also the notes above on toxicity. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of menstrual disorders and nose bleeds.
Known Hazards: All parts of the plant are poisonous to many mammals, including humans. The toxin affects the liver and has a cumulative affect. Some mammals, such as rabbits, do not seem to be harmed by the plant, and will often seek it out. Various birds also eat the leaves and seeds.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.