OSU at Marion: Native(ish) Invasion of Butterweed (Senecio glabellus)
May 29, 2008.
Last week I saw a striking display of a native perennial prairie herb, golden ragwort (Senecio aureus) at the Larry R. Yoder Prairie on the OSU at Marion Campus. Of similar aspect but strikingly different ecology, there’s a comparatively new weedy Senecio, S. glabellus, here in central Ohio. It’s called “butterweed,” and it’s unusual among aliens in that, unlike most of our weeds which originated in faraway other continents like Europe, Asia or Altantis, this one is native to southeastern states of the good old U. S. of A! (A few other North American weeds occur in Ohio, but most of them, such as wild 4-o-clock (Myrabilis nyctaginea) and western mugwort (Artemisia ludoviciana) are dry-site western species that spring up along railroad tracks, no doubt brought there by the trains.)
Presently this species is blanketing many first-year fallow corn or bean fields throughout the region, forming massive swathes of golden yellow. It seems to be a relative newcomer here. Neither I nor several plant-oriented people I’ve spoken with about it recall having seen butterweed until about a decade ago, and they agree it seems more and more prevalent every year.
Portion of stem of butterweed (Senecio glabellus, family Asteraceae) at OSU-Marion, May 29, 2008. The stems are glabrous (hairless) and the leaves are deeply lobed.
Flower heads of butterweed (Senecio glabellus, family Asteraceae) at OSU-Marion, May 29, 2008.