Senecio squalidus

Senecio squalidus
Senecio squalidus
Oxford Ragwort
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Subfamily: Asteroideae
Tribe: Senecioneae
Genus: Senecio
Species: S. squalidus
Binomial name
Senecio squalidus
Range of S. squalidus

Senecio nebrodensis auct., non L.
Senecio laciniatus Bertol.[2]
Senecio rupestris Waldst. & Kit.[3]
Senecio squalidus d'Urv.
Senecio squalidus Willd.
Senecio squalidus M.Bieb.[4]
Jacobaea incisa C. Presl
Senecio glaber Ucria
Senecio incisus (C. Presl) C. Presl[5]

Oxford Ragwort (Senecio squalidus), is a member of the Senecio genus in the daisy family Asteraceae. It is a yellow-flowered herbaceous plant, native to mountainous, rocky or volcanic areas, that has managed to find other homes on man-made and natural piles of rocks, war-ruined neighborhoods and even on stone walls. These habitats resemble its well drained natural rocky homeland. The plants have spread via the wind, rail and the activities of botanists. The travels and discriminative tendencies regarding propagation of this short-lived perennial, biennial, or winter annual make it a good subject for studies of the evolution and ecology of flowering plants.


Common names

  • English: Oxford Ragwort
  • German: Felsen-Greiskraut, Felsen-Kreuzkraut
  • Croatian: Kamenjarski dragušac, Kamenjarski kostriš, Kamenjarski staračac, Katunski dragušac
  • French: Séneçon luisant, Séneçon des rochers
  • Italian: Senecione montanino
  • Slovak: Starček skalný
  • Slovene: Skalni grint
  • Swedish: Stenkorsört



Like all members of the large Asteraceae family, Senecio squalidus has a flower head. Where this is joined to the plant stem there are bracts and what look like single flowers are actually a cluster or inflorescence, known as a capitulum, with each petal or corolla being its own flower, or floret, possessing its own stamen and capable of producing the specialized seed of the family Asteraceae, the parachute-like achene.[7]

Oxford Ragwort is a short-lived perennial, a biennial, or a winter annual and grows in a branched straggling form to between 1.5 feet (0.5 m) and 3.3 feet (1 m) depending on conditions. S. squalidus prefers dry, disturbed places, cultivated and waste ground, walls and railway banks,[3][8] flowering from March[9] to December[8] and reproduces from seed.[3]

Leaves and stems
S. squalidus have herbaceous plants whose alternate, glossy and varying from deeply pinnately lobed to undivided leaves are almost hairless with only the lower ones being stalked. Stems and leaves resemble those of the Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)[3][8] with the exception that their lobes are more widely spaced.[10]
S. squalidus has larger more attractive capitula than Senecio jacobaea and a more spreading habit.[9] Yellow capitula of 10-14 petals in loose clusters at the stem. The tips are pollinated by insects. Ray corollas .3 inches (8 mm) to .6 inches (15 mm) long, .08 inches (2 mm) to .16 inches (4 mm) wide.[8]
Oxford ragwort is self-incompatible and needs pollen from other plants with different self-incompatibility alleles;[11]

[12] [13] its own flower possess a stigma with characteristics of both the “dry” and “wet” types.[14]

The fruiting heads are often nodding.[3]
Each pollinated Oxford ragwort corolla matures into a bell to cylindrical shaped indehiscent achene, the shallowly ribbed fruit is light brown in colour and .06 inches (1.5 mm) to .12 inches (3 mm) long.[8] Each plant can produce approximately 10,000 fruits during the year.[15]

As a Senecio and a diploid Senecio squalidus is part of a species group along with S. flavus, S. gallicus, S. glaucus and S. vernalis who are widespread geographically and interesting for the study of genetic differences in relation to the environment and plant evolution.[16]


Senecio squalidus growing on walls in Liverpool.

This Senecio was introduced into Britain via Francisco Cupani and William Sherard in the years of their visit 1700, 1701 and 1702 from Sicily[17] where it lives as a native on volcanic ash[15] to the Duchess of Beaufort's garden at Badminton. Later a transfer of the genetic material to the Oxford Botanic Garden by the "Horti Praefectus" (the title still given to the head gardener at the Oxford Botanic Garden[18]) Jacob Bobart the Younger before his death in 1719[19] (which is also the same year that Bobart retired as Horti Praefectus[18] and perhaps a good indication of when this species of ragwort and other invasive species might have "escaped" and started to make their home in the greater British Isles). The Sicilian ragwort escaped into the wild and grew in the stonework of Oxford colleges (with the specific mention of the Bodleian Library[9]) and many of the stone walls around the city of Oxford. This gave the plant its common name, "Oxford Ragwort".[20]

Carolus Linnaeus first described Senecio squalidus[21] in 1753, although there is a dispute as to whether the material came from the Botanic Garden or from walls in the city; the taxonomy for this species is further complicated by the existence of species with a similar morphology in continental Europe.[19]

James Edward Smith officially identified the escaped Oxford ragwort with its formal name Senecio squalidus in 1800.[19]

The vortex of air following the express train carries the fruits in its wake. I have seen them enter a railway-carriage window near Oxford and remain suspended in the air in the compartment until they found an exit at Tilehurst.

George Druce, 1927[19]

During the Industrial Revolution, Oxford became connected to the railway system and the plant gained a new habitat in the railway lines clinker beds, gradually spreading via the railway to other parts of the country. The process was accelerated by the movement of the trains [20] and the limestone ballast that provides a well-drained medium which is an adequate replica of the lava-soils of its native home in Sicily.[19][22]

During the 20th century it continued to spread along railway lines and found a liking for waste places and bombed sites after World War II which have a lot in common with the volcanic regions of home.[9]

Recently, this and other Senecio and their differing tastes for self-incompatibility and self-compatibility have been the subject of study for the purposes of understanding the evolution of plant species as the genus finds new homes and pollen partners throughout the world:

  • The origin of Senecio vulgaris var. hibernicus Syme was determined to be an introgression of Senecio squalidus into Senecio vulgaris subsp vulgaris
  • The dual origin of S. cambrensis Rosser to both Wales and Scotland explained as being a product parenting by the diploid S. squalidus and the tetraploid S. vulgaris in both locations
  • The willingness of S. squalidus to hybridize with Senecio viscosus Crisp & Jones and forms the sterile hybrid S. subnebrodensis Simk.
  • The suggestion that S. squalidus is actually a hybrid of two other Sicilian Senecio: S. aethnensis Jan ex DC and S. chrysanthemifolius Poir.[19]


Senecio squalidus grows on scree in mountainous regions of native range,[3] and earned its common name Oxford ragwort for its willingness and ability to grow in similar habitat elsewhere in the world.[19]

Native range of S. squalidus.


Senecio squalidus is considered to be a native of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service while the same USDA other resource Germplasm Resources Information Network considers it to be native to Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Switzerland, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Crete, Italy, Sardinia, Sicily, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia.


Northern Africa: Morocco
North America: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, California
Northern Europe: Denmark, Germany, Republic of Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom
Middle Europe: Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Switzerland
East Europe: Poland,
Southeastern Europe: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria
Southwestern Europe: France, Spain
South Europe: Croatia, Crete, Greece, Italy, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Sardinia, Serbia, Sicily, Slovenia

Range Maps


All Senecio, including S. squalidus, are considered food by some insects that like to eat the pyrrolizidine alkaloids they contain:


Gall flies (Diptera: Tephritidae):
  • Sphenella marginata
  • Trupanea stellata
  • Trypeta zoe[27]

And other insects that are not listed here.


Most Senecio, including S. squalidus are susceptible to rust and other fungus and mildews[27]:

Rust fungus Uredinales
White rust Peronosporales
Sac fungus Ascochyta, Pezizomycetes
  • Ascochyta senecionicola - (Coelomycete)
Powdery Mildew Erysiphales

And other fungi that are not listed here.

Synonyms and misapplied names

  • Jacobaea incisa C. Presl
  • Senecio glaber Ucria
  • Senecio incisus (C. Presl) C. Presl
  • Senecio laciniatus Bertol.
  • Senecio nebrodensis auct., non L.
  • Senecio rupestris Waldst. & Kit.
  • Senecio squalidus d'Urv.
  • Senecio squalidus Willd.
  • Senecio squalidus M.Bieb.
  • Senecio nebrodensis L. subsp. rupestris (Waldst. & Kit.) Fiori
  • Senecio leucanthemifolius subsp. vernalis (Waldst. & Kit.) Greuter
  • Senecio squalidus subsp. aethnensis (DC.) Greuter
  • Senecio squalidus subsp. araneosus (Emb. & Maire) Alexander
  • Senecio squalidus subsp. aurasicus (Batt.) Alexander
  • Senecio squalidus subsp. aurasiacus (Batt. & Trab.) Alexander
  • Senecio squalidus subsp. chrysanthemifolius (Poir.) Greuter
  • Senecio squalidus subsp. eurasiacus (Batt. & Trab.) Alexander
  • Senecio squalidus subsp. microglossus (Guss.) Arcang.
  • Senecio squalidus subsp. rupestris (Waldst. & Kit.) Greuter
  • Senecio squalidus subsp. sardous (Fiori) Greuter
  • Senecio squalidus subsp. squalidus
  • Senecio squalidus var. glaber (Ucria) FIORI
Misapplied names


  1. ^ Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). "PLANTS Profile, Senecio squalidus L.". The PLANTS Database. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  2. ^ a b Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. "Flora Europaea Search Results matching squalidus and Senecio". Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h California Department of Food and Agriculture. "Senecio genus". Encycloweedia. State of California. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  4. ^ a b The International Plant Names Index. "whole name = Senecio squalidus". Plant Names. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  5. ^ a b c Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem. "Details for: Senecio squalidus". Euro+Med PlantBase. Freie Universität Berlin. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  6. ^ Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem. "Details for: Senecio squalidus subsp. rupestris (Waldst. & Kit.) Greuter". Euro+Med PlantBase. Freie Universität Berlin. Retrieved 2008-05-14. 
  7. ^ Dr. Gerald (Gerry) Carr, University of Hawaii, Botany Department. "Asteraceae (Compositae)". Vascular Plant Family Systematic Index. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Brickfields Country Park (2007-12-24). "Oxford Ragwort - Senecio squalidus". Ask Brickfields Country Park a question. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  9. ^ a b c d Peter Llewellyn (23 August 2004). "Senecio squalidus Oxford ragwort". Wild Flowers of the British Isles. Wild Flower Society. Retrieved 2008-02-12. 
  10. ^ Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2000-03-07). "IDENTIFICATION OF INJURIOUS WEEDS" (PDF). Farming: wildlife and plants. United Kingdom Government. Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  11. ^ Hiscock, S.J. (2000). "Genetic control of self-incompatibility in Senecio squalidus L. (Asteraceae): a successful colonizing species". [Heredity] 85 ( Pt 1): 85, 10–19. 2000a. PMID 10971686. 
  12. ^ Hiscock, S.J. (2000b). "Self-incompatibility in Senecio squalidus L. (Asteraceae)". [Annals of Botany] (, pages = 85, 181–190). 
  13. ^ Alexandra Allen. "Identification of genes regulating self-incompatibility in Senecio squalidus (Asteraceae).". University of Bristol, School of Biological Sciences. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  14. ^ Simon J. Hiscock; Karin Hoedemaekers; William E. Friedman; Hugh G. Dickinson; Simon J. Hiscock, Karin Hoedemaekers, William E. Friedman, and Hugh G. Dickinson (January 2002). "The Stigma Surface and Pollen‐Stigma Interactions in Senecio squalidus L. (Asteraceae) following Cross (Compatible) and Self (Incompatible) Pollinations". International Journal of Plant Sciences (University of Chicago, Hyde Park, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press) 163 (1): 1–16. doi:10.1086/324530. 1058-5893/2002/16301-0001. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  15. ^ a b Natural History Museum (1994-08-12). "Details for Senecio squalidus L.". The National Biodiversity Network's Species Dictionary. The Natural History Museum. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  16. ^ Hollingsworth, Peter; Richard M. Bateman, Richard Gornall (1999). "Monophyly populations and species". Molecular Systematics and Plant Evolution. CRC Press. pp. 504 pages. ISBN 0748409084. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  17. ^ University of Catania. "Monti Rossi" (in Italian). Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  18. ^ a b University of Oxford Botanic Garden. "A History of the Gardens". Sub/historyintro.html. Retrieved 2008-02-14. [dead link]
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Harris, S.A. (2002). "Introduction of Oxford Ragwort, Senecio squalidus L. (Asteraceae), to the United Kingdom". Watsonia (Botanical Society of the British Isles) 24: 31–43. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  20. ^ a b Plant reproduction and speciation group, University of Bristol. "The Oxford Ragwort Story". University of Bristol, School of Biological Sciences. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  21. ^ Swedish Museum of Natural History (2003-08-20). "Senecio squalidus L.". Linnean herbarium (S-LINN). Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  22. ^ Chris Gliddon (1998-02-12). "Plant Invasion and Inter-Specific Hybridization". The impact of hybrids between genetically modified crop plants and their related species: biological models and theoretical perspectives. Guide to Risk Assessment and Biosafety in Biotechnology, GRABB, United Nations Environment Programme. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  23. ^ Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). "PLANTS Profile, Nativity of Senecio squalidus L.". The PLANTS Database. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  24. ^ a b Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) (2007-05-04). "Taxon: Senecio squalidus L.". Taxonomy for Plants. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program, National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  25. ^ a b Global Biodiversity Information Facility. "Occurrence search Classification includes Species: Senecio squalidus ". Species Data. GBIF Data Portal.;0&U+0050D;.s=20&c&U+0050B;0&U+0050D;.p=0&c&c&U+0050B;0&U+0050D;.o=13749824. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  26. ^ "Senecio squalidus" (in Spanish). Artículo de la Enciclopedia Libre Universal en Español. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  27. ^ a b "Senecio squalidus L. (Oxford Ragwort)". BioImages: The Virtual Field-Guide (UK). Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  28. ^ Missouri Botanical Garden. "TROPICOS Web display Senecio squalidus L.". Nomenclatural and Specimen Data Base. Missouri State Library. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 

Further reading

External links

Data related to Senecio squalidus at Wikispecies Media related to Senecio squalidus at Wikimedia Commons Media related to Tyria jacobaeae at Wikimedia Commons

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