Few Composites blossom early in the season. Most of them seem to require a good deal of time to develop proper plants and flower heads, but in May the golden ragwort suddenly blooms. It and the dandelions often are the only yellow Composites to make their appearance before high summer.
Senecio aureus L.
May. Deep woods.
Ragwort or groundsel comes in mid-May in woods where the last of the wild blue phlox still is scattered among the growing substrata of plants in the woodland. The ragwort presents a bright splash of color on a dark, damp hillside - such bright golden, miniature yellow asters catch the decreased sunlight which penetrates the leaf canopy and magnifies it all out of proportion to its true amount.
Ragwort starts with a basal rosette of dark green, glossy leaves which are oval and slightly toothed. As the stems begin to grow, the leaves upon them are different in shape, often spade-shaped, deeply toothed or lobed, and up the stem the leaves are so deeply cut that they appear almost compound. The uppermost leaves are much Like those of tansy or betony. Above them are the many-branched heads of flowers with their bright yellow rays and orange-yellow centers. The plant is a, juicy one, easily wilting, with none of that weediness of growth which so commonly characterizes the yellow Composites of summertime.
The butterweed (Senecio glabellas) grows two to three feet tall and has hollow, stout, ridged, glossy stalks. The flowers, similar in form to those of golden ragwort, are produced in a flat, broad cluster at the top of the stem. The basal leaves are large and deeply cut. the stem leaves growing smaller up the stem. Butterweed is found in wet woods and at the edges of swamps from April to June.