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Nodding Groundsel Senecio bigelovii


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Nodding Groundsel
credit: Russ Kleinman, Bill Norris & Mark Donnell

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Alternate name: Nodding Ragwort

Family: Asteraceae, Aster view all from this family

Description An erect, leafy stem with nodding, rayless, yellow flower heads on usually bent stalks and arranged in a narrow branched cluster.
Habit: native perennial herb; single or loosely clustered stems.
Height: 4-48 in (20-120 cm).
Leaf: lanceolate, finely serrated, stalkless, often clasping; to 6 in (15 cm) long and 2 in (5 cm) wide; growing smaller above.
Flower: yellow, bell-shaped or cylindrical, about 1/2 in (12 mm) wide; up to 20 per plant.

Warning Plants of this genus (and herbal remedies derived from them) can cause poisoning and fatal illness in humans. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Flower July to September.

Habitat Rich moist soil: grassy mountain hillsides and forests, stream-side meadows.

Range Western Colorado south to Arizona and New Mexico; 7000-11,000 ft (2100-3350 m).

Discussion Also known as: Bigelow's groundsel, nodding ragwort. There are 2 named varieties apart from the species. Senecio, as traditionally constructed, was one of the largest genera of plants, with 2,000-3,000 species worldwide. The genus is unwieldy, and several of its definable subunits have been raised to the level of genus. Nearly 100 species occur in western North America. Olympic Mountains Groundsel (S. neowebsteri), found in the Olympic Mountains in western Washington, and Showy Alpine Senecio (S. amplectens), found in the Rocky Mountains, both also have nodding flower heads, but these species have rays.