Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Senecio vulgaris



Senecio vulgaris


  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Senecio vulgaris
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae

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S. vulgaris is a slender annual (sometimes biennial) herb, 4-60 cm tall, leafy and can be hairy or glabrous.
TitleWhole plant
CaptionS. vulgaris is a slender annual (sometimes biennial) herb, 4-60 cm tall, leafy and can be hairy or glabrous.
S. vulgaris is a slender annual (sometimes biennial) herb, 4-60 cm tall, leafy and can be hairy or glabrous.
Whole plantS. vulgaris is a slender annual (sometimes biennial) herb, 4-60 cm tall, leafy and can be hairy or glabrous.AgrEvo
Flowers, seeds and leaves of S. vulgaris.
TitleColoured artwork
CaptionFlowers, seeds and leaves of S. vulgaris.
CopyrightNOVARTIS (amended from CIBA-GEIGY Weed Tables No. 118)
Flowers, seeds and leaves of S. vulgaris.
Coloured artworkFlowers, seeds and leaves of S. vulgaris.NOVARTIS (amended from CIBA-GEIGY Weed Tables No. 118)
Plant parts of S. vulgaris: (A) typical leaf; (B) seedling.
TitleLine drawing of plant parts
CaptionPlant parts of S. vulgaris: (A) typical leaf; (B) seedling.
CopyrightNOVARTIS (amended from CIBA-GEIGY Weed Tables No. 118)
Plant parts of S. vulgaris: (A) typical leaf; (B) seedling.
Line drawing of plant partsPlant parts of S. vulgaris: (A) typical leaf; (B) seedling.NOVARTIS (amended from CIBA-GEIGY Weed Tables No. 118)


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Senecio vulgaris L. (1753)

Other Scientific Names

  • SENVU (Bayer)

International Common Names

  • English: birdseed; chickenweed; common groundsel; grimsell; grinning (or grundie)-swallow; grinsel; grondiswil; ground glutton; groundiswel; groundiswelie; groundiswell; groundsel; groundsil; groundswell; groundswyle; groundwill(y); grounsel; grummel; grundsel; grundy; grunistule; grunithule; grunnishule; grunsel; grunsil; grunswaithe; old-man-of-spring; sention; simson; swallow
  • Spanish: buenvaron; hierba cana; lechocinos
  • French: grand mouron; herbe à la chardonnerette; herbe aux charpentiers; herbe aux coitrons; séneçon; séneçon commun; séneçon vulgaire; toute venue
  • Arabic: moraar; nabat al-tuore
  • Portuguese: cardo morto; tasneirinha

Local Common Names

  • Algeria: Acheba Salema
  • Argentina: senecio comun
  • Belgium: klein kruiskruid
  • Brazil: cardo-misto
  • Canada: ragwort; staggerwort
  • Colombia: cineraria; yuyito
  • Denmark: almindelig brandbaeger
  • Finland: pelovillakko
  • Germany: Gemeines Greiskraut; Gemeines Kreuzkraut; Gewohnliches Greiskraut
  • Italy: calderugia; Cardoncello; erba calderina; solleciola; verzellina
  • Japan: noborogiku
  • Madagascar: anadraisoa
  • Netherlands: Gewoon Kruiskruid
  • Norway: akersineblom
  • Poland: starzec zwyczajny
  • Sweden: korsbo; vanlig korsort
  • Turkey: kanarya otu; sofiera

EPPO code

  • SENVU (Senecio vulgaris)

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Asterales
  •                         Family: Asteraceae
  •                             Genus: Senecio
  •                                 Species: Senecio vulgaris

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page The generic name Senecio describes the aggregated fruits of this species which are white and have a head-like form, similar to the cranium of an old man covered by sparse weak hairs. The pappus also resembles a white beard, thus its latin name probably derives from the latin word 'Senex' meaning old or an elderly man. Dioscoride called this plant 'Erigeron' which means the spring old women. Vulgaris is derived from the latin vulgari meaning common, usual or ordinary (Zimdahl, 1989).

The genus Senecio is cosmopolitan, with 1500 species found in almost every country in the world (LeStrange, 1977). About 25 species contain alkaloids poisonous to humans and animals. S. vulgaris (a polyploid) has a worldwide distribution and a high self-pollinating ability (Gibbs et al., 1975). Two forms are known, S. vulgaris f. radiatum (radiate) and S. vulgaris f. vulgaris (non-radiate). The first produce more capitula/plant and more seeds/capitulum than the second (Oxford and Andrew, 1976), whereas the relative fecundity of the non-radiate form is greater in the spring and autumn (Abbott and Horril, 1991). Another intermediate morph has also been reported in the UK (Abbott and Horril, 1991). The radiate variant seems to have originated from introregression between S. vulgaris (2n = 40) and S. squalidus (2n = 20) (Abbott et al., 1992a). This was probably a result of continuous gene flow between the two species, and probably the introduction of an allele controlling capitulum type into populations of S. vulgaris through hybridization (Hull, 1976), that lead to capitulum polymorphism in S. vulgaris (Oxford et al., 1996).

Two subspecies of this weed have been reported, the non-weedy, late developing S. vulgaris subsp. denticulatus and its weedy, early developing derivative subsp. vulgaris var. vulgaris, both differ in chloroplast genomes by at least eight site mutations (Harris and Ingram, 1992). Isoenzyme studies revealed that the cosmopolitan S. vulgaris var. vulgaris (tetraploid) is an evolutionary derivative of S. vulgaris subsp. denticulatus, since the two taxa exhibit very high genetic identity (Comes and Kadereit, 1996). The tetraploid radiate groundsel differs markedly from typical inland radiate groundsel (S. vulgaris var. hibernicus) (Irwin and Abbott, 1992). The latter gained no increased genetic diversity for esterases via introgression of germplasm from S. squalidus and thus maintained a low level of genetic diversity for esterases relative to var. vulgaris in populations containing both varieties (Abbott et al., 1992b).


Top of page S. vulgaris is a slender annual (sometimes biennial) herb, 4-60 cm tall, leafy and can be hairy or glabrous. Leaf axils somewhat 'cottony' in appearance, stem succulent, hollow, slightly angled, branched, thickish, erect or ascending. Leaves dense, slightly fleshy and all pinnatifid, with lower leaves petiolate, oblong-spathulate, dentate to short-lobed, cauline leaves oblong in outline, sessile, half-clasping and auriculate at base; lobes distant, oblong, rachis, lobes and auricles denticulate. Peduncles shorter or somewhat longer than heads (Feinbrun-Dothan, 1978) and also somewhat cottony. Flower-heads 2-4 mm in diameter, cylindrical, usually in dense corymbs; phyllaries linear, reflexed in fruit; discoid or rarely radiate with short ligules. Flowers yellow, found all year around, and ray flowers absent. Disc florets usually 6-7 mm, rather broad when in flower; involucral bracts linear, acute, narrowly scarious-margined; tip blackish, ending in a tuft of hairs, bracts of the calycule 8 or more, triangular; blackish at least in their upper part, much shorter than involucre.

Achenes 2.2 x 0.7 mm, fusiform, ribbed, hairy, appressed-hirtellous, brown and produced most of the year (LeStrange, 1977). Pappus longer than achene, prominent, white and hairy. This weed spreads easily by means of its small fruits equipped with single, white ephemeral hairs. A single specimen can produce up to several thousand fruits in one year (Chancellor, 1983). Seeds and fruit become sticky when wet.


Top of page S. vulgaris is usually regarded as a temperate weed and although it has a worldwide distribution it appears to be more localized in many European countries (Chater and Walters, 1976) and North America. The weed is especially prolific and plentiful on fertile soil, completely smothering crops at early stages. However, its spread in tropical regions is very limited, with only a restricted number of countries in Africa and South America affected. It is also quite well represented in Asian and Mediterranean countries.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


AfghanistanPresentNativeHolm et al., 1991
ArmeniaPresentNativeKomarov et al., 1961
AzerbaijanPresentNativeKomarov et al., 1961
ChinaPresentNativeHolm et al., 1991
-Hong KongPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1991
-NingxiaPresentWittig et al., 2000
Georgia (Republic of)PresentNativeKomarov et al., 1961
IndiaWidespreadKomarov et al., 1961; Kakrani and Kalyani, 1984
IranWidespreadNativeHolm et al., 1991
IraqPresentNativeHolm et al., 1991
IsraelWidespreadNativePost, 1933; Yaacoby et al., 1996
JapanWidespreadNativeNumata and Yoshizawa, 1975
JordanWidespreadNativeHolm et al., 1991
KazakhstanPresentNativeKomarov et al., 1961
Korea, DPRPresentNativeKomarov et al., 1961
Korea, Republic ofWidespreadNativeHolm et al., 1991
KyrgyzstanPresentKomarov et al., 1961
LebanonPresentNativeHolm et al., 1991
MongoliaPresentKomarov et al., 1961
Saudi ArabiaWidespreadChaundhary & Howaishel, 1980
SyriaPresentPost, 1933
TaiwanAbsent, intercepted onlyIntroducedHsu, 1973
TajikistanPresentKomarov et al., 1961
TurkeyPresentDavis, 1975
TurkmenistanPresentKomarov et al., 1961
UzbekistanPresentNativeKomarov et al., 1961


AlgeriaPresentNativeQuezel and Santa, 1963
EgyptWidespreadNativeHolm et al., 1991
KenyaWidespreadIntroducedHolm et al., 1991
MoroccoPresentNativeAlexander, 1979
MozambiquePresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1991
TunisiaWidespreadNativeHolm et al., 1991
ZambiaWidespreadIntroducedAnon., 1973

North America

BermudaPresentIntroducedFawcett & Rendle, 1936
CanadaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlbertaWidespreadIntroduced1937 Invasive Robinson et al., 2003
-British ColumbiaWidespreadIntroduced1875 Invasive Robinson et al., 2003
-ManitobaWidespreadIntroduced1922 Invasive Robinson et al., 2003
-New BrunswickWidespreadIntroduced1914 Invasive Robinson et al., 2003
-Newfoundland and LabradorWidespreadIntroduced1894 Invasive Robinson et al., 2003
-Northwest TerritoriesWidespreadIntroduced1949 Invasive Robinson et al., 2003
-Nova ScotiaWidespreadIntroduced1890 Invasive Robinson et al., 2003
-OntarioWidespreadIntroduced1877 Invasive Robinson et al., 2003
-Prince Edward IslandWidespreadIntroduced1902 Invasive Robinson et al., 2003
-QuebecWidespreadIntroduced1882 Invasive Robinson et al., 2003
-SaskatchewanWidespreadIntroduced1896 Invasive Robinson et al., 2003
-Yukon TerritoryWidespreadIntroduced1902 Invasive Robinson et al., 2003
MexicoPresentIntroducedHultén and Fries, 1986
USAWidespreadIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-AlabamaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-AlaskaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-ArkansasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-ColoradoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-ConnecticutPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-DelawarePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-FloridaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-IdahoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-IllinoisPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-IndianaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-IowaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-KansasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-KentuckyPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-MainePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-MarylandPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-MassachusettsPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-MichiganPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-MinnesotaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-MississippiPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-MissouriPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-MontanaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-NebraskaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-NevadaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-New HampshirePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-New JerseyPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-New MexicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-New YorkPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-North DakotaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-OhioPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-OklahomaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-OregonPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-Rhode IslandPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-South DakotaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-TennesseePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-TexasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-UtahPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-VermontPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-VirginiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-WashingtonPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-West VirginiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-WisconsinPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002
-WyomingPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, and, 2002

Central America and Caribbean

CubaPresentIntroducedFawcett & Rendle, 1936
HaitiPresentIntroducedFawcett & Rendle, 1936
JamaicaPresentIntroducedFawcett & Rendle, 1936
MartiniquePresentIntroducedFournet, 2002

South America

ArgentinaWidespreadIntroducedDelhey and Kiehr-Delhey, 1988
ChileWidespreadIntroducedFinot et al., 1996
ColombiaWidespreadIntroducedMena et al., 1978
EcuadorPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1991
Falkland IslandsPresentIntroducedHultén and Fries, 1986


AlbaniaWidespreadNativeHayek, 1931; Chater and Walters, 1976
AndorraPresentNativeChater and Walters, 1976
AustriaWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
BelarusWidespreadNativeKomarov et al., 1961; Chater and Walters, 1976
BelgiumWidespreadNativeReichenbach and Reichenbach, 1854; Chater and Walters, 1976
Bosnia-HercegovinaWidespreadNativeHayek, 1931; Chater and Walters, 1976
BulgariaWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
CroatiaWidespreadNativeHayek, 1931; Chater and Walters, 1976
Czech RepublicWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
Czechoslovakia (former)WidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
DenmarkWidespreadNativeReichenbach and Reichenbach, 1854; Chater and Walters, 1976
EstoniaWidespreadNativeKomarov et al., 1961; Chater and Walters, 1976
Faroe IslandsPresentNativeChater and Walters, 1976
FinlandRestricted distributionIntroducedChater and Walters, 1976
FranceWidespreadNative Invasive Rouy, 1903; Chater and Walters, 1976
-CorsicaWidespreadNativeRouy, 1903; Chater and Walters, 1976
GermanyWidespreadNative Invasive Reichenbach and Reichenbach, 1854; Chater and Walters, 1976
GreeceWidespreadNativeHayek, 1931; Chater and Walters, 1976
HungaryWidespreadNativeReichenbach and Reichenbach, 1854; Chater and Walters, 1976
IcelandPresentNative Invasive Chater and Walters, 1976
IrelandWidespreadNative Invasive Chater and Walters, 1976
ItalyWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976; Pignatti, 1982
LatviaWidespreadNativeKomarov et al., 1961; Chater and Walters, 1976
LiechtensteinWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
LithuaniaWidespreadNativeKomarov et al., 1961; Chater and Walters, 1976
LuxembourgWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
MacedoniaWidespreadNativeHayek, 1931; Chater and Walters, 1976
MaltaPresentHaslam et al., 1977
MoldovaWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
MonacoPresentNativeChater and Walters, 1976
NetherlandsWidespreadNative Not invasive Reichenbach and Reichenbach, 1854; Chater and Walters, 1976
NorwayWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
PolandWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
PortugalWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
-AzoresWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
-MadeiraPresentPress and Short, 1994
RomaniaWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
Russian FederationPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Central RussiaWidespreadNativeKomarov et al., 1961; Chater and Walters, 1976
-Eastern SiberiaPresentNativeKomarov et al., 1961
-Northern RussiaPresentKomarov et al., 1961; Chater and Walters, 1976
-Russian Far EastPresentNativeKomarov et al., 1961
-Southern RussiaWidespreadNativeKomarov et al., 1961
-Western SiberiaPresentNativeKomarov et al., 1961
San MarinoPresentNativeChater and Walters, 1976
SlovakiaWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
SloveniaWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
SpainRestricted distributionNative Not invasive Chater and Walters, 1976
-Balearic IslandsWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
SwedenWidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976
SwitzerlandWidespreadNativeReichenbach and Reichenbach, 1854; Chater and Walters, 1976
UKWidespreadNative Invasive Chater and Walters, 1976; Stace, 1997
-Channel IslandsWidespreadNativeMcClintock, 1975; Le Sueur, 1984
UkraineWidespreadNativeKomarov et al., 1961; Chater and Walters, 1976
Yugoslavia (former)WidespreadNativeHayek, 1931; Chater and Walters, 1976
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)WidespreadNativeChater and Walters, 1976


AustraliaWidespreadIntroducedLazarides et al., 1997
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedLazarides et al., 1997
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedLazarides et al., 1997
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedLazarides et al., 1997
-TasmaniaPresentIntroducedLazarides et al., 1997
-VictoriaPresentIntroducedLazarides et al., 1997
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedLazarides et al., 1997
New ZealandWidespreadIntroducedWebb, 1987


Top of page S. vulgaris is a weed of arable land and waste ground and is widespread in some countries. It is common in different parts of the world, and is frequently a problem at altitudes up to 2000 m. Plants with a nuclear genome resistant to triazine appear to be better adapted to cooler temperatures than triazine-susceptible genomes (MacCloskey and Holt, 1991). It is native to Europe, Northern Africa and Asia (Euro-Siberian, Mediterranean and W. Irano-Turanian).

S. vulgaris is an important weed on peatland and cultivated bog (MacNaeidhe and Curran, 1980), is flood sensitive (Lambers et al., 1978) and has different degrees of tolerance to soluble lead (Briggs, 1976). It is highly sensitive to ozone treatment which causes leaf discoloration (Bergmann et al., 1995). This weed has a genetic response to spatial variations of the environment (Abbott, 1976), greatly influenced by the spatial pattern of its individuals with other species and its effect on population dynamics. Topodemes from saline sites are in general more salt tolerant than those from non-saline habitats (Briggs, 1978).

It is favoured by reduced cultivation (Nielson and Pinnerup, 1982) and higher populations are found under zero tillage. It became numerous during the nutrient-rich tillage phase, but does not necessarily persist (MacNaeidhe and Curran, 1982). Wilmanns (1975) found that intensive weed control increased populations, and heavy application of certain herbicides resulted in morphological and physiological variations between and within its populations (Abbott, 1974) that were apparently due to inherent physiological differences between its main biotypes (Radozevich and Appleby, 1973). It was among the first species to recolonize after herbicide treatment with simazine (Strykers and Himme, 1972c).

Elevated carbon dioxide levels results in more branches and longer root systems. At high carbon dioxide concentrations and low water levels, root systems have branching and foraging patterns, and similar root lengths to those grown under ambient carbon dioxide combined with high water levels. The threshold freezing temperature for bulk tissues is between -1 and -4°C (Paul and Ayres, 1991). It is very adaptable and capable of growing under adverse conditions. Brown and Molyneux (1996) found that water and/or nutrient deficiency did not significantly alter the concentration of senecionine or seneciphylline alkaloids in plant tissues.

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page A very diverse group of crop species is invaded by S. vulgaris in different geographical areas in tropical, sub-tropical and cool weather regions. The weed appears to be of high geographical and climatic tolerance since seed germination occurs at a range of temperatures between 7 and 25°C. However, the losses caused by this weed depend on the crop species affected and the availability of optimum growth conditions for the weed to fully exert its effects through competition, allelopathy or both. The weed is able to compete with different crop species of different growth habits and habitats in different cropping systems. Many of the infested crops reported are important feed or fodder crops. The ability of this species to develop new morphs in nature, to produce a huge number of readily germinating seeds and its increasing tolerance to different herbicide groups may all contribute towards the existence and success of this weed as a major threat to agriculture.

Biology and Ecology

Top of page S. vulgaris behaves like a summer annual (Nielsen and Pinnerup, 1982). Seed dormancy is part of the seasonal cycle and can be modified by temperature, nitrate levels and soil moisture (Karssen, 1980) whereas germination appears to be opportunistically fire-independent (Zammit and Zedler, 1994). Seeds have a very high capacity for germination within a wide range of temperatures 7-25°C (Kozhevnikova and Makhaeva, 1974) the optimum being 7-10°C. Growth of this weed is greatly influenced by carbon dioxide and soil moisture.

Wind is the most important medium for the transport of S. vulgaris seeds (MacNaeidhe and Curran, 1982). Seed dormancy appears to be strongly related to habitat and geographical location. Ren and Abbott (1991, 1992) found that seeds of a Mediterranean population showed strong innate dormancy over a wide range of temperatures, enabling the species to adopt a winter annual life cycle, whereas those of British groundsel showed more than 80% germination at 20°C. Dormancy however, can be overcome by stratification, leaching, treatment with gibberellic acid alone or with kinetin, and by wounding the fruit and seed coat (Ren and Abbott, 1992). In the soil, temperature, nitrate and soil moisture were among the factors affecting dormancy. Seed germination requires white and red light (Hilton, 1983). The non-radiate morph of this weed tends to show early germination before winter, producing an equivalent or greater seed output/plant than the radiate morph, while radiate seeds produced in the following autumn show a tendency towards late germination in the spring (Marshall and Abbott, 1987). Plants of both biotypes from intensively-weeded habitats developed more quickly from sowing to first fruiting than plants from less intensively-weeded habitats whereas within the same habitat, non-radiate plants developed faster than radiate plants (Kadereit and Briggs, 1985).

Based on herbicide tolerance, two biotypes have been reported: triazine-susceptible and triazine-resistant. Colonization by the second group can be encouraged by herbicides (Barralis et al., 1983) and populations can increase rapidly from the initial frequency of the resistant genotype (Scott and Putwain, 1981). Both are quite different in anatomical, physiological and biochemical characters, thus reflecting differences in their growth and development (Radozevich et al., 1979; Holt, 1988; Chodova et al., 1995). Susceptible biotypes produce greater total dry matter, height, number of leaves, leaf area, root/shoot ratio, total chlorophyll/unit leaf weight, chlorophyll a:b ratio, soluble protein, carbon dioxide assimilation rate, oxygen evolution in continuous stroma-free chloroplast and relative growth rate. Resistant plants have a decreased fitness to grow and reproduce, and their competitive ability is lower than the susceptible biotype (Holt et al., 1981; Sims, 1982; Holt, 1983). Holt and Radosevich (1982, 1983) found that shading lowered all growth parameters in both biotypes, but growth values remained greater in susceptible rather than resistant biotypes.

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 4 19
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 25 45
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) -14 8


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration07number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall40mm; lower/upper limits

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Aphanomyces cladogamus Pathogen
Coleosporium tussilaginis f.sp. senecionis-sylvati Pathogen
Gibberella avenacea Pathogen
Golovinomyces cichoracearum var. fischeri Pathogen
Mycocentrospora acerina Pathogen
Pseudomonas cichorii Pathogen
Puccinia lagenophorae Pathogen
Pustula tragopogonis Pathogen
Pythium intermedium Pathogen
Verticillium Pathogen

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page S. vulgaris is attacked by a high number of natural enemies including fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes, aphids, insects, mites and even birds. However, almost all are polyphagous and need to be carefully evaluated before being considered for a biological control programme. Many of the enemies reported are well known as pests, attacking a wide range of agricultural and horticultural plant species and causing severe damage in different crops.

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx fruits
Fruits (inc. pods) fruits
Growing medium accompanying plants fruits
Leaves fruits
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches fruits
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
True seeds (inc. grain)

Impact Summary

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Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Positive
Crop production Negative
Environment (generally) None
Fisheries / aquaculture Negative
Forestry production None
Human health None
Livestock production None
Native fauna None
Native flora Positive
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None


Top of page S. vulgaris is of widespread significance in over 49 countries, infesting most cultivated crops in different parts of the world. It has been reported to be a serious weed of maize in Canada, of woody plant nurseries in England, Norway and Sweden; and of horticultutal crops (vegetables and small fruits) in the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden; and of strawberries in Scotland.

With regard to competitiveness, S. vulgaris is one of the most dominant weeds in maize where prevention of yield losses requires a weed-free period of 274-135 growing degree days, although this was associated with a yield loss of 8.3 and 12.7% (Ferrero et al., 1996). In carrots, and in the presence of other weed species, the critical period of weed competition occurs 60 days after emergence. The weed strongly competes with apple trees, lowers N concentration in leaves, causes a deficit in soil moisture, reduces root activity and decreases yield and quality (Atkinson and Crisp, 1983). S. vulgaris has a low demand for K and Mg and higher requirements for Ca and P (Qasem and Hill, 1993a, 1995a). However, during severe root restriction, the weed showed a higher tissue concentration of P and Mg and lower Ca (Qasem and Hill, 1995b). It showed a higher specific absorption rate of N, P, K, Ca and Mg than tomato (Qasem and Hill, 1993b), while its competition index with Chenopodium album increased according to its proportion in the mixture (Qasem and Hill, 1994). Growth of this species was greatly reduced with ammonia and urea forms of nitrogen, and both affected the weed root concentration of P (Qasem and Hill, 1993c).

Although no specific study is available on the losses caused by this weed in different crops, it was found to reduce yields of broccoli by 18 and 30% at densities of 3 or 8 plants/m², respectively (Agamalian, 1983). Many studies have reported this species as a noxious weed prevalent in most crops and causing yield losses in association with other weeds, yet it frequently escapes chemical control. In addition to the losses caused through direct competition, certain studies reported an allelopathic activity of S. vulgaris on certain species.

S. vulgaris has different biotypes, one of which exhibits resistance to different herbicide groups, making control sometimes difficult. It infests all types of cultivated crops including herbs, shrubs or woody trees in different cropping systems. This reflects the high ecological tolerance of this species and it is thus considered as a highly successful colonizer under different conditions. Wind dissemination, and the rapidity and ease of seed germination give it an advantage to survive and to exist in nature. The weed serves as a host for a wide range of agricultural pests attacking different economic crops worldwide (See Natural Enemies).

Chemical tissue analysis of S. vulgaris has revealed the presence of free and N-oxide alkaloids (retrosine, seneciophyllinen, senecionine, spartioidine, usaramine and riddaline), mainly concentrated in the flower heads. The pyrrolizidine alkaloids are readily converted by the liver into toxic pyrroles causing liver disease in horses (Mendel et al., 1988). These alkaloids are also toxic to cattle, causing many livestock deaths and show significant effects on hepatic enzymes in rats (Kakrani and Kalyani, 1984). Several species of Senecio have been linked to human fatalities in incidents of bread poisoning, where seeds of other plant parts have been incorporated into bread for human consumption. In addition, the weed contains sesquiterpene-lactone, and leaf extracts possess a low concentration of free amino acids.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Pest and disease transmission
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control


Top of page Although S. vulgaris is regarded as a troublesome weed in most countries, with at least one biotype resisting chemical treatment by certain herbicides, it serves as a favourite food for rabbits and the seeds are eaten by birds. It is of medicinal value, used internally and externally at the flowering stage and before head opening, while leaves and juice of the plant can also be used the year around to treat a wide range of medical conditions (Kakrani and Kalyani, 1984). It has been used extensively in folk medicine as a vermifuge or laxative (Fogelfors, 1984) and as a healing herb, to stop bleeding from nose bleeds and during menstruation. It has antihelminthic, astringent, expectorant and haemostatic properties, and has been used medicinally as a useful remedy for toothache (LeStrange, 1977). Culpeper (1802, quoted by Mitich (1995)) states that the leaves, when stamped and strained into milk and drunk, help treat red gums and upset children. The plant cools inflammations and is an easy emetic when prepared as a tea. Taken in ale, it acts against stomach pains, strangury, jaundice and destroys worms.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page S. vulgaris differ from other annual species of Senecio in having black-tipped bracts and inconspicuous heads without ligulate flowers (Frankton and Mulligan, 1987). The genetic control character of a non-radiate mutant of S. vulgaris was identical with the genetic control of non-radiate S. squalidus (Ingram and Taylor, 1982).

Graumann and Gottsberger (1988), showed that S. jacobaea, S. erucifolius, S. aquaticus and S. fuchsii, all with an allogamous reproduction system, possess showy capitula with prominent ray-florets and attract a broad array of cross-pollinating insects. Pollen/ovule ratio is high and biomass investment is preferentially in the flowers and lower in fruits. The autogamous S. vulgaris has reduced ray-florets, a pollen/ovule ratio about 10 times lower and a converse biomass investment compared with the above species.

The closely related species S. jacobaea has a different chromosome number (2n = 80) (Murin and Majovsky, 1987), and is widely spread as a poisonous weed of range land and pastures in different countries. The tissues of this plant contain hepatoxic alkaloids which are also present in the honey produced from its nectar, and include senecionine, seneciphylline, jacoline, jaconin and jacozine which are potentially carcinogenic, mutagenic and tetragenic and may pose hazards to man (Deinzer et al., 1977). Since S. jacobaea is a rangeland species, biological control methods are the most important and highly emphasized. These can be achieved with a number of natural enemies. In comparison with S. vulgaris, only a few herbicides have been tested; 2,4-D and MCPA alone or in combination with dicamba are extremely good and give more than 99% control.

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Cultural Control

A combination of cultural and chemical control methods were effective against different weeds, including S. vulgaris, in lupins (Jambrina, 1983). Boydston (1995) found that rototilling without herbicides in the spring and at layby in asparagus gave best control, whereas Tessier and Leroux (1994) reported best control of S. vulgaris in broccoli using an intercropping system, by sowing the intercrop 25 days after transplanting combined with two cultivations. Intercropping can be performed using red clover, and winter or annual ryegrass. Plastic mulch and pre-sowing soil solarization proved to be effective in strawberries (MacGiolla, 1989); spring tillage in spring wheat (Arshad et al., 1994) was also good for crop flowering, yield and control of weed populations including S. vulgaris. Ploughing (10-14 cm deep) in the autumn or spring suppressed S. vulgaris in peppermint, whereas disking (5-9 cm deep) was not sufficient to control this weed (Talkington and Berry, 1986).

Chemical Control

A vast quantity of literature is available on chemical control, and a great number of herbicides have proved to be very effective in different crops. More importantly, a large number of herbicides have failed to affect the weed, some even encouraging growth or population levels (van Himme et al., 1981). However, the effectiveness of herbicides depends on time, rate, method of application and crop stage. Results of different experiments have confirmed the importance of herbicide mixtures or the combination of chemicals with cultural and mechanical methods of weed control.

Effective treatments in the following crops have been reported:

Apple orchards: The effectiveness of a mixture of dalapon and aminotriazol has been reported by Kurhan and Kurcman (1979). Oxyfluorfen (Cleave, 1984) and simazine applied in the spring were also effective against this weed. For heavy weed infestations, linuron and dichlobenil were excellent (Demeyere et al., 1988), the same herbicides and metazachlor were highly successful in pears (Aalbers, 1993).

Vineyards: for S. vulgaris control in grapes, sulfosate (Trouslard, 1991), simazine + diuron + oil, napropamid + simazine (Rozier, 1986) and a split application of diuron (Magnien and Riffiod, 1983) have all proved effective. Thiazopyr has been reported as an excellent treatment in this crop (Warner and Holmdal, 1995).

Container-grown ornamentals and nurseries: For tree nurseries, diuron and oxyfluorfen were highly effective (Noye, 1989), whereas oryzalin resulted in more than 98.8% control; chloroxuron and oxadiazone being less effective. Late application of metazachlor or chlorotoluron, isoxaben, napropamide and dichlobenil are also very useful treatments.

In ornamentals and other container grown nurseries, dithiopyr gives 100% control of S. vulgaris (Smith and Treaster, 1992). Oxyfluorfen alone or in combination with oryzalin is also effective and lasts for 3-4 months after application (Derr, 1989; Staats and Klett, 1993). Oxadiazon granules show promising results (Elmore et al., 1979). Other effective herbicides include terbacil (Kelly, 1972), oryzalin, oxyfluorfen + oryzalin, and isoxaben + oryzalin (Hood and Klett, 1992). Mixtures of atrazine with napropamide, and oxyfluorfen with propazamide give good control (Moon, 1984). Napropamid alone (Kelly, 1982) or in combination with simazine, dichlobenil (Ticknor, 1977), bromoxynil, methazol and norflurazon (Ryan, 1976) are also useful herbicides. Cyanazine and methazol both prevent early spring infestation.

Early application of sulfometuron-methyl and imazapyr have adequately controlled the weed in Pinus taeda (Metcalfe, 1985), whereas Ahrens and Cubanski (1981) found that glyphosate and oxyfluorfen gave good control in evergreen forest trees.

Strawberries: Hexazan (Barring, 1981), pendimethalin + napropamide (MacGiolla, 1989), propachlor, lenacel in combination with phenmedipham (post-emergence) or chlorxuron (Quast, 1987) have all been used successfully. Phenmedipham applied at the cotyledon stage (Avall, 1974), simazine, and lenacil + chloxuron at the 4-5 leaf stage were all effective against the weed and selective to crop plants (Strychers and Himme, 1971).

Vegetables: a wide range of herbicides have been recommended: sulfallate in lettuce (Jones and Suckling, 1978), with pronamide and chlorxuron alone or in combination also being useful (Uprichard, 1972). For outdoor-drilled crops, carbatamide with chlorpropham are possible, but are marginally less selective (Fort, 1973). In celery, paraquat applied 2 days before crop emergence followed by mineral oil at the 1-2 leaf stage, or with linuron 9 days after sowing, was highly effective and killed the weed almost totally (van Himme et al., 1975). For weed control in brassicas, trifluralin + napropamide in pre-sowing treatment, or followed by propachlor after drilling has been tested (Roberts, 1972), a mixture of carbetamide and azioprotryne, desmetryne or dimefuron, all gave good results with a marked reduction in S. vulgaris populations (Suckling, 1977). Propyzamide + aziprotryne (Cassidy, 1977) was found effective. Cyanazine, pyridate (Bullen et al., 1993), liquid ammonium nitrate or ammonium thiosulfate can be used at the 2-4 leaf stage of broccoli, during early weed growth (Agamalian, 1991). The weed is extremely susceptible to phenmedipham in sugarbeet (Bomer, 1979).

Onions: The most promising herbicides in these crops include 3,6 dichloropicolinic acid at or after the 2-leaf stage (Lake, 1980) and chlorpropham + trifluralin at the 3-4 leaf stage. Ioxynil + carbetamide + propyzamide gave excellent control at the 2-leaf stage (Cassidy, 1977). In leek, prynachlor was satisfactory (Stryckers and Himme, 1972a; Ampe and Bockstaele, 1973). In addition, cycluron, pyrazone with chlorbufam, propachlor and chloroxuron were all effective and selective herbicides. In directly-sown onion, pyridate (Bullen et al., 1993) and propachlor were highly successful (German Plant Protection Service, 1975), whereas seedbed treatments of chlorthal dimethyl with prynachlor as pre-emergence and pyrazon with chlorbufam and prynachlor were highly effective (Cantele et al., 1977).

Legumes: HCS-3510 is generally recommended. However, in lupin, Fogard (atrazine) during or after sowing and before weed emergence (Jambrina, 1983), or metachlor + linuron (Mitich et al., 1989) effectively controls the weed. Dichlobenil (Stryckers and Himme, 1972b) and bentazon (post-emergence) (Roberts et al., 1974) are possible herbicides for weed control in dwarf french beans. Pope (1980) reported that in soyabean, linuron, followed by alloxydim 76 days after sowing or (Mortia et al., 1983) was successful, whereas in broad bean, terbutryne + terbuthylazine and trietazine + simazine were effective.

Carrots: late pre-emergence application of metoxuron followed by post-emergence of linuron, propyzamid + diuron, simazine or propazine (Fiveland, 1977) and chlorbromuron provide good control at the late cotyledon stage (MacNaeidhe, 1972 ). Trifluralin can be incorporated before sowing, followed by post-emergence application of metoxuron or prometryne (Dobrzanski, 1975). Metribuzin, linuron, metaxuron and pentachlor after the 3- leaf stage, all gave good weed control (German Plant Protection Service, 1974)

Potato: EPTC and metobromuron were found useful herbicides for weed control in this crop (UK Advisory Service, 1970).

Pumpkin and squash: ioxynil is effective (Esau and Rumney, 1985), and clomazone was found to be selective by Al-Khatib et al. (1995).

Cereals: effective and selective treatments include FRI 298 (isoproturon + diflafenican) applied pre or post-emergence in wheat and barley (Drummond and Horsnail, 1987), simazine + atrazine during or after sowing in maize, but pre-emergence for the weed (Panero, 1972), acetochlor or metachlor with urea derivatives and dicamba as soil treatments (Torok, 1983), and pyridate and bromophenoxin with terbuthylazine also proved effective. Use of rimsulfuron as a a surfactant gave excellent results (Kreidi, 1992).

Lucerne: Using bromoxynil alone or with sethoxydim provided long lasting control in lucerne seedlings (Carter and Hendrick, 1983). Asulam in a post-emergence treatment gave more than 95% control (Harper et al., 1974), and carbetimade prevented S.vulgaris infestations (Soper and Hutchison, 1974). Diuron, metribuzin, terbacil, chloropropham, paraquat and secbumetron are all possible alternatives (Norris et al., 1984).

Mamarot and Rodriguez (1997) provide suggestions for use of herbicides and herbicide mixtures in a wide range of crops in France.

Biological Control

Despite the wide range of natural enemies reported as attacking S. vulgaris, only two fungal species (Erysiphe fischeri and Puccinia lagenophorae) have been tested as biological control agents. Plants infected with E. fischeri continued growing to set seeds even when 75-100% of the aerial parts were colonized but dry matter production of the weed was markedly reduced (Clarke et al., 1979).

Under glasshouse conditions, P. lagenophorae infection reduced weed dry weight both in pure and mixed stands with lettuce. The fungus inhibited leaf expansion and production of capitula, reduced the number of flowering plants and led to more rapid and early senescence of the weed whereas mature, infected, flowering plants died earlier and more rapidly than healthy plants (Paul and Ayres, 1987).The high death rate occurring among autumn-inoculated plants was due to infection of the hypocotyl which was always killed within 1-2 weeks. However, heavily-infected plants were still able to produce some capitula and potentially set seed. Inoculation of plants bearing aecia of P. lagenophorae with an isolate of Puccinia intermedium caused 50% death of hosts 18 days after inoculation and 37 days after inoculation with Gibberella avenacea (Hallett and Ayres, 1992). In a different study, Ascard and Jonasson (1991) reported good control of S. vulgaris in cabbage fields using meal of seed residues of mustard (Sinapis alba).


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