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Oxford Ragwort

Senecio squalidus

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asteraceae (Daisy)
Also in this family:
Alpine Blue Sow-thistle, Alpine Cotula, Alpine Fleabane, Alpine Saw-wort, Annual Ragweed, Annual Sunflower, Argentine Fleabane, Autumn Hawkbit, Autumn Oxeye, Beaked Hawksbeard, Beggarticks, Bilbao Fleabane, Black Knapweed, Black-eyed Susan, Blanketflower, Blue Fleabane, Blue Globe-thistle, Bristly Oxtongue, Broad-leaved Cudweed, Broad-leaved Ragwort, Brown Knapweed, Butterbur, Buttonweed, Cabbage Thistle, Canadian Fleabane, Canadian Goldenrod, Carline Thistle, Chalk Knapweed, Chamois Ragwort, Changing Michaelmas Daisy, Chicory, Chinese Mugwort, Chinese Ragwort, Coltsfoot, Common Blue Sow-thistle, Common Cat's-ear, Common Cudweed, Common Daisy, Common Dandelion, Common Fleabane, Common Goldenrod, Common Groundsel, Common Michaelmas Daisy, Common Mugwort, Common Ragwort, Common Wormwood, Coneflower, Confused Michaelmas Daisy, Corn Chamomile, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Cotton Thistle, Cottonweed, Creeping Thistle, Daisy Bush, Dwarf Cudweed, Dwarf Thistle, Early Goldenrod, Eastern Groundsel, Eastern Leopardsbane, Elecampane, English Hawkweed, Fen Ragwort, Feverfew, Field Fleawort, Field Wormwood, Fox and Cubs, French Tarragon, Gallant Soldier, Garden Lettuce, Giant Butterbur, Glabrous-headed Hawkweed, Glandular Globe-thistle, Glaucous Michaelmas Daisy, Globe Artichoke, Globe-thistle, Goat's Beard, Golden Ragwort, Golden Samphire, Goldilocks Aster, Grass-leaved Goldenrod, Great Lettuce, Greater Burdock, Greater Knapweed, Grey-headed Hawkweed, Guernsey Fleabane, Hairless Blue Sow-thistle, Hairless Leptinella, Hairy Michaelmas Daisy, Harpur Crewe's Leopardsbane, Hawkweed Oxtongue, Heath Cudweed, Heath Groundsel, Hemp Agrimony, Highland Cudweed, Hoary Mugwort, Hoary Ragwort, Hybrid Knapweed, Intermediate Burdock, Irish Fleabane, Jersey Cudweed, Jerusalem Artichoke, Lance-leaved Hawkweed, Lavender-cotton, Leafless Hawksbeard, Least Lettuce, Leopardplant, Leopardsbane, Leptinella, Lesser Burdock, Lesser Hawkbit, Lesser Sunflower, London Bur-marigold, Magellan Ragwort, Marsh Cudweed, Marsh Hawksbeard, Marsh Ragwort, Marsh Sow-thistle, Marsh Thistle, Meadow Thistle, Melancholy Thistle, Mexican Fleabane, Milk Thistle, Mountain Everlasting, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Musk Thistle, Narrow-leaved Cudweed, Narrow-leaved Hawkweed, Narrow-leaved Michaelmas Daisy, Narrow-leaved Ragwort, New England Hawkweed, New Zealand Holly, Nipplewort, Nodding Bur-marigold, Northern Hawksbeard, Norwegian Mugwort, Oxeye Daisy, Pearly Everlasting, Perennial Cornflower, Perennial Ragweed, Perennial Sow-thistle, Perennial Sunflower, Pineapple Mayweed, Plantain-leaved Leopardsbane, Ploughman's Spikenard, Plymouth Thistle, Pontic Blue Sow-thistle, Pot Marigold, Prickly Lettuce, Prickly Sow-thistle, Purple Coltsfoot, Rayed Tansy, Red Star Thistle, Red-seeded Dandelion, Red-tipped Cudweed, Robin's Plantain, Roman Chamomile, Rough Cocklebur, Rough Hawkbit, Rough Hawksbeard, Russian Lettuce, Safflower, Salsify, Saw-wort, Scented Mayweed, Scentless Mayweed, Sea Aster, Sea Mayweed, Sea Wormwood, Seaside Daisy, Shaggy Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shaggy Soldier, Shasta Daisy, Shetland Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shrub Ragwort, Sicilian Chamomile, Silver Ragwort, Slender Mugwort, Slender Thistle, Small Cudweed, Small Fleabane, Smooth Cat's-ear, Smooth Hawksbeard, Smooth Sow-thistle, Sneezeweed, Sneezewort, Spear Thistle, Spotted Cat's-ear, Spotted Hawkweed, Sticky Groundsel, Stinking Chamomile, Stinking Hawksbeard, Tall Fleabane, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Tansy, Thin-leaved Sunflower, Treasureflower, Trifid Bur-marigold, Tuberous Thistle, Tyneside Leopardplant, Viper's Grass, Wall Lettuce, Welsh Groundsel, Welted Thistle, White African Daisy, White Butterbur, White Buttons, Willdenow's Leopardsbane, Winter Heliotrope, Wood Burdock, Wood Ragwort, Woody Fleabane, Woolly Thistle, Yarrow, Yellow Chamomile, Yellow Fox and Cubs, Yellow Oxeye, Yellow Star Thistle, Yellow Thistle, York Groundsel
Life Cycle:
Annual or Perennial
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, meadows, roadsides, rocky places, sand dunes, sea cliffs, seaside, towns, walls, wasteland, woodland.

Yellow, many petals
The flowers of Oxford Ragwort are vivid and distinctive, featuring a vibrant display of bright yellow ray florets surrounding a central disc. Each flower head is composed of numerous ray florets radiating outwards, creating a daisy-like appearance. The flowers are typically small, with a diameter of about 1 to 2 centimeters. The plant produces its flowers in loose clusters at the tips of the branching stems. The petals of the ray florets are elongated and narrow, giving the flowers a delicate and feathery appearance. The overall effect is a profusion of yellow blooms that adds a splash of color to the plant's surroundings. Oxford Ragwort is known for its striking floral display, and the flowers contribute to its visual appeal, especially when observed en masse. It's important to note that while the flowers are aesthetically pleasing, the plant is considered invasive in some regions, and efforts are made to manage its spread to protect native flora.
The fruit of Oxford Ragwort is achene, a dry, one-seeded fruit typical of the Asteraceae family. The plant produces small, elongated fruits that are often crowned with a tuft of fine hairs, aiding in wind dispersal. Each achene contains a single seed and is formed within the flower head, where the yellow ray florets have withered away. As the flowering season progresses, these achenes develop and mature, eventually contributing to the plant's reproductive cycle. The lightweight nature of the achenes, coupled with the assistance of the tufted pappus, facilitates their dispersal over varying distances, aiding in the plant's ability to colonize new areas.
The leaves of Oxford Ragwort are deeply lobed and display a distinctive, fern-like appearance. Arranged alternately along the stems, the pinnately divided leaves have irregularly toothed edges and a slightly hairy texture. The green foliage is deeply cut into segments, with each segment having toothed margins, imparting a feathery and intricate structure to the leaves. The overall shape of the leaves contributes to the plant's overall bushy and textured appearance. The presence of fine hairs on the leaf surfaces can give them a slightly grayish-green hue. This foliage provides an interesting contrast to the vibrant yellow flowers when in bloom, enhancing the visual appeal of Oxford Ragwort in its natural habitat.
Oxford Ragwort does not typically have a distinctive or notable aroma. Unlike some plants that are cultivated for their fragrances, Oxford Ragwort is primarily appreciated for its visual characteristics rather than any discernible scent. The focus on this species often centers around its vibrant yellow flowers, fern-like leaves, and overall visual appeal rather than olfactory qualities. As such, individuals observing Oxford Ragwort in its natural habitat are unlikely to encounter any notable fragrance associated with the plant, and its allure lies primarily in its striking visual presence.
Other Names:
Rayed Groundsel, Squalid Ragwort, St Jame's-wort.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Senecio squalidus, commonly known as Oxford ragwort or St. James-wort, is a herbaceous perennial plant that is native to Europe and Asia, but it is also naturalized in some other parts of the world, including North America. It has a basal rosette of deeply lobed leaves and a tall, branching stem that bears numerous yellow, daisy-like flowers. It prefers moist, well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade. It is considered as a invasive species and harmful to grazing animals when ingested, due to its high level of toxicity.


Oxford ragwort, scientifically known as Senecio squalidus, is a species of flowering plant that is native to the Mediterranean region but has now become an invasive weed in many parts of the world, including Europe, North America, and Australia. The plant belongs to the daisy family and is sometimes referred to as the 'fireweed.'


The Oxford ragwort is a biennial or perennial herb that can grow up to 100 cm tall. The leaves are dark green and deeply lobed, and the flowers are bright yellow with a black center. The plant blooms from June to October and is known for its showy, bright flowers that attract a variety of insects.

Ecological Impacts

The Oxford ragwort is a highly invasive plant that has spread rapidly in many parts of the world, particularly in disturbed areas such as roadsides, railway tracks, and waste ground. The plant is a problem because it competes with native plant species for resources, reducing the diversity of plant communities. The plant can also be toxic to livestock, particularly horses, which can develop a condition called ragwort poisoning.

Control Measures

To control the spread of the Oxford ragwort, it is essential to prevent the introduction and establishment of new populations. This can be achieved by limiting the transport of contaminated soil or plant material and by ensuring that all contaminated areas are properly cleaned and disinfected. In areas where the plant is already established, a range of control measures can be employed, including manual removal, cutting, and herbicide application. It is important to note that herbicides should only be used by trained professionals, and the use of chemicals should be done with care, following all necessary precautions to minimize environmental impacts.


Although the Oxford ragwort is considered an invasive weed, the plant does have some ecological value. The plant is an important source of nectar and pollen for many insects, including bees and butterflies. As such, efforts are being made to manage the plant in a way that balances conservation and control. This can involve the selective removal of plants from areas where they are causing ecological damage, while preserving populations in areas where they are of ecological value.


The Oxford ragwort is a highly invasive plant that poses a significant threat to native plant communities and livestock. As such, it is important to take measures to control its spread and prevent its establishment in new areas. At the same time, it is important to recognize the ecological value of the plant and to balance conservation and control efforts to ensure the long-term sustainability of our ecosystems.

More Information

One of the interesting things about the Oxford ragwort is its history. It is believed that the plant was introduced to the UK in the 17th century as an ornamental garden plant. However, it quickly escaped from gardens and became naturalized in the wild. The plant was first recorded growing in Oxford in the 19th century, which is how it got its common name, 'Oxford ragwort.'

Another interesting feature of the Oxford ragwort is its ability to adapt to different environments. The plant can grow in a wide range of soils and is tolerant of both drought and frost. This adaptability is one of the reasons why the plant has been able to spread so rapidly in many parts of the world.

Efforts are being made to control the spread of the Oxford ragwort in many countries. In Australia, for example, the plant is listed as a noxious weed, and there are regulations in place to prevent its spread. In the UK, the plant is not listed as a noxious weed, but there are guidelines on how to manage its spread.

Oxford ragwort is a highly invasive plant that poses a significant threat to native plant communities and livestock. It is important to take measures to control its spread and prevent its establishment in new areas. At the same time, efforts should be made to balance conservation and control, as the plant has some ecological value. By working together to manage the spread of the Oxford ragwort, we can help protect our natural ecosystems and the wildlife that depend on them.

Another interesting aspect of the Oxford ragwort is its potential use as a medicinal plant. The plant contains a number of chemicals that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. Some studies have also suggested that extracts of the plant may have potential as a treatment for certain types of cancer, although more research is needed in this area.

Despite its potential medicinal properties, it is important to note that the plant can also be toxic. The Oxford ragwort contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can cause liver damage if ingested in large quantities. As a result, it is important to handle the plant with care and to follow all necessary precautions when working with it.

In addition to its ecological and medicinal value, the Oxford ragwort has also been the subject of artistic and cultural interest. The bright yellow flowers of the plant have been used in a variety of artistic works, including paintings, photographs, and poetry. The plant has also been referenced in literature, with notable mentions in the works of William Shakespeare and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Oxford ragwort is a plant that has a rich history and a range of ecological, medicinal, and cultural values. While it is important to control its spread and prevent its establishment in new areas, efforts should also be made to preserve the plant's cultural and ecological significance. By taking a balanced approach to the management of the Oxford ragwort, we can help protect our natural ecosystems and the cultural heritage that is associated with this fascinating plant.

The Oxford ragwort is not only valued for its ecological, medicinal, and cultural significance but also for its potential as a source of bioenergy. The plant has been identified as a potential feedstock for the production of biofuels, as it has a high content of lignocellulose, a complex organic material that can be converted into liquid biofuels.

In addition to its potential as a source of bioenergy, the Oxford ragwort has also been used in the production of natural dyes. The yellow flowers of the plant contain pigments that can be used to dye fabric, and the plant has been used in traditional textile production in some parts of the world.

The plant's ecological value should not be overlooked, as it provides an important source of nectar and pollen for many insect species, including bees and butterflies. As such, efforts are being made to manage the plant in a way that balances conservation and control, and to preserve populations in areas where they are of ecological value.

Oxford ragwort is a plant that has a wide range of potential uses, from its medicinal properties to its potential as a source of bioenergy and natural dyes. However, it is important to balance these uses with efforts to control its spread and prevent its establishment in new areas. By taking a holistic approach to the management of the Oxford ragwort, we can help to ensure that this fascinating plant continues to provide ecological, cultural, and economic benefits for generations to come.

In recent years, there has been increased interest in using the Oxford ragwort as a model organism for studying evolutionary processes. The plant's invasive nature and rapid spread make it an ideal candidate for studying how species adapt to new environments and the genetic basis of invasive traits. This research can help us to better understand the mechanisms behind species' ability to colonize new habitats and the factors that determine the success of invasive species.

Another area of research where the Oxford ragwort has potential is in the field of phytoremediation. Phytoremediation is the use of plants to clean up contaminated soils or water by absorbing and breaking down pollutants. The Oxford ragwort has been shown to have the ability to accumulate heavy metals, such as lead and zinc, from contaminated soils. This makes it a promising candidate for use in the remediation of contaminated land, particularly in areas where traditional remediation methods may not be feasible.

Overall, the Oxford ragwort is a plant with a complex and varied range of uses and values. Its invasive nature and potential negative impact on native ecosystems make it an important species to manage and control, but its potential ecological, medicinal, and cultural value should not be overlooked. By taking a balanced approach to its management, we can help to ensure that this fascinating plant continues to provide benefits for both humans and the natural world.


Video 1: Oxford Ragwort filmed at Marshside, Southport in Lancashire on the 4th June 2023.


Video 2: Oxford Ragwort filmed at Wigan Locks in Lancashire on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, 9th June 2023 and 17th September 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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