Friday, November 20, 2009


People seem to believe that autumn means that plants are slowing down and ending their growth for the year. While this is true of many plants, there are others busily producing new growth. One of the most noticeable at Blue Jay Barrens is ragworts. This is a cluster of new leaves produced by the Golden Ragwort, Senecio aureus.

I love the look of fresh new leaves and those produced during cool weather seem to exhibit a special vibrancy. Here is an especially attractive leaf, with a deep green color and serrated margin. This leaf is busily capturing the sun’s energy for storage so it will be ready to tall spikes of yellow flowers in the spring.

Some of the summer leaves are still holding on, but they don’t seem to have the resistance to frost displayed by the new growth. I’m sure this leaf, now blemished and in decline, did its service to the plant through the summer months. I wonder if there is actually a chemical difference between cold season leaves and those of summer.

Another of the ragwort clan is Senecio obovatus, Round-leaved Ragwort. This is the host plant of the Northern Metalmark butterfly that I posted about last June. I need this plant to thrive so I can support more butterflies.

Late season growth doesn’t mean there aren’t insects ready to make a meal of the plant. It looks like some type of leaf miner was at work here. A little bit of leaf damage isn’t going to hurt the plant. A complete defoliation event could result in the plant using all of its stored energy in regrowing foliage at the expense of flowers.

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