Thursday, April 22, 2010

Golden Ragwort

Golden Ragwort, Senecio aurea, has been conspicuous as basal leaves through the entire winter. Now it has produced a tall stalk topped by a cluster of yellow flowers. Ragworts produce the typical composite type flower with a central cluster of simplified disk flowers and an outer border or showy ray flowers. The Golden Ragwort flower head is small and requires close examination to pick out the intricate details.

Golden Ragwort is primarily a plant of the field where they can blanket the landscape with a mass of yellow blooms. Unfortunately, Golden Ragwort is often confused with some of the annual weedy mustards that cover disturbed ground like that found in crop fields. People are likely to brand this plant an undesirable weed just because they have never bothered to give it a close examination.

This is a perennial plant that can remain green through any season. Most of the leaves occur at the base of the plant, so loss of the flower stalk does no harm to the plant. As the season progresses, summer flowers and tall grasses will hide the ragworts. It won’t be until the following winter that the green of the basal leaves again catches the eye.

The Golden Ragwort leaf has lobes on either side of the stem attachment that give it a heart shaped appearance. The very similar Round-leaf Golden Ragwort has leaves that taper down to the stem attachment. Both of these species are common at Blue Jay Barrens, but they seldom occur together in the same location.

The flowers remain attractive for many weeks as new buds develop and open. The stems and unopened buds have a soft pubescence that gives them a cobwebby appearance. This seems to wear off as the plant ages.

As far as I know, this Plume Moth doesn’t have any specific ties to Golden Ragwort. I just think this is a really neat moth and since it landed beside me as I was taking shots of the flowers, I took its picture and stuck it in here for those people who really prefer animals over plants.

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