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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

03 March, 2016

Heath Groundsel: the woodland ragwort

Most people with a garden will be familiar with the small, pernicious weed, groundsel; an untidy and fast spreading plant that is difficult to eradicate from well kept flower beds! Well, imagine a bigger version of that; it exists but, fortunately, will not normally bother you as you lovingly tend your flower borders.
The larger version is called heath groundsel (Senecio sylvaticus) and it grows in dry, sandy places and so ii Dorset is often found on heathland but not always. Interestingly perhaps, sylvaticus means 'of woodland' and yet it is rarely found in woodland habitat unless the tree canopy is open and the soil sandy. It is known in some places as the woodland ragwort because, like ragwort, it is a member of the daisy family but for me that is where the similarity between the two ends!
Apart from favouring different growing conditions and being somewhat bigger, usually at least a foot tall, its flower heads are much more conical; wide in the seed box and narrow at the petal tips. It also tends to be more upright than the common groundsel which can be a bit droopy.
Quite common, indeed it can locally be very common, it flowers from June right through until September.
Heath Groundsel: the woodland ragwort