Monday, March 14, 2011

Old-man-in-the-spring (Senecio vulgaris)

Senecio vulgaris is known by the common names Old-man-in-the-spring and Common Groundsel. I first noticed this plant in Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in the Clybel Wildlife Management Area in Jasper County, Georgia in early March. Some plants had already set seed. These plants must have started blooming in February.

A dozen or so plants are growing along the west side of the Murder Creek Church Road just south of its crossing the dam on Margery Lake. There were also a couple of plants on the east side of the road.

A closer view of one of the plants. They are only 7 to 8 inches high and blend into the background. If it hadn’t been cloudy and gray on March 6th, I might not have noticed the bright yellow florets that make up the flower head that is only about 6 mm in diameter. The plants were no more than 6 to 7 inches tall.

A closer view of a leaf. Leaves are quite distinctive in shape and many had long white hairs on the upper surface.

The flowers develop as clusters at the tip of a stem. This photo shows an unopened bud and several flowers.
The black bracts at the base of the flower are diagnostic for this species.

A close view of a flower that is composed of many small florets.

This flower is starting to go to seed.

A seed head. A few florets remain. The seed head is quite delicate. A strong breeze was blowing seeds from the head as I was photographing it.

Seeds are very light and blow away easily on the breeze. This plant is an annual and depends on seed dispersal to perpetuate the species.

Old-man-in-the-spring is a native of Europe and is found throughout the United States and Canada. In Georgia it has only been documented from Lincoln and Wilkes counties.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Distribution Map:

- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database: Senecio vulgaris (Old-man-in-the-spring)

- University of North Carolina Herbarium: Senecio vulgaris

Identification resources:

- Southeastern Flora: Old-man-in-the-spring (Senecio vulgaris)

- Natural and Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia: Senecio vulgaris (Common Groundsel)

- Missouri Plants: Senecio vulgaris

Related posts:

- 2010: Year Of The Wildflower – Wildflower Index

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