Succulents are found in many plant families. They are herbs, bulbs, bushes, and trees. There are about 10,000 different types of succulents from about 60 families of plants.
These are commonly known groups such as the spurge family, the periwinkle family, the milkweed family, the aloe family, the sesame family, the orchid family and even the grass family.
Senecio (se-NEE-see-oh) is a genus of the daisy family (Asteraceae) that includes ragworts and groundsels. The scientific Latin genus name, Senecio, means “old man.” From senex (“old”).
Though the whole Senecio genus contains over 1,000 species, only about 100 are “succulent” or water-storing. They are classified in the aster family along with their succulent relatives Othonna.
Variously circumscribed taxonomically, the genus Senecio is one of the largest genera of flowering plants.
The traditional circumscription of Senecio is artificial, being polyphyletic, even in its new circumscription which is based on genetic data.
Despite the separation of many species into other genera, the genus still contains approximately 1,250 species and is one of the largest genera of flowering plants.
Most succulents are polycarpic plants. Meaning they live long lives. Some, however, are monocarpic. This is the case with Senecio, well some.
Within the genus Senecio, some species such as S. aquaticus is a monocarp while S erucifolius is a perennial. The life form of S. jacobaea is somewhat intermediate, tending more to monocarpic than to perenniality.
As no morphological synapomorphies are known to determine which species belong to the genus or not, no exact species numbers are known. The genus has an almost worldwide distribution and evolved in the mid- to late Miocene about 23.03 to 5.333 million years ago.
Senecio Succulent CareThis is an easy family of plants to care for.
There are about 100 succulent Senecios, including a few oddities that are not really suited to the garden, although they are certainly interesting.
Most Senecio thrives in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11. A few Senecio species can tolerate brief periods of cold or dampness, but prolonged exposure will turn them to mush.
Established plants are extremely drought tolerant. They do need some water, during the summer, but do not leave the soil wet for prolonged periods.
Allow the soil to dry out between waterings in the winter, when they are somewhat dormant.
Being succulents, they will grow best in partial to full sun. Most Senecio plants are low growing, under 1 ft. (30 cm) tall. Depending on species, they may spread out or trail down about 1 ft. (20 cm).
Since they are growing in sandy soil, nutrients will need to be replenished. Fertilize annually, but lightly. Too much fertilizer will cause a lot of leggy growth.
Senecio BloomsThe blooms are FABULOUS!
Senecio succulents are grown for their interesting shapes and leaves.
They also bloom. Vibrant and magnificent and at different times during the year. Sadly, not all of them bloom in cultivation as well as they do in the wild.
The flower heads are normally rayed with the heads borne in branched clusters, and usually completely yellow, but green, purple, white and blue flowers are known as well.
In its current circumscription, the genus contains species that are annual or perennial herbs, shrubs, small trees, aquatics or climbers. The only species which are trees are the species formerly belonging to Robinsonia occurring on the Juan Fernández Islands.
Senecio plants can be grown from either seed or cuttings. Seeds require warm temperatures (55 F.) and constant moisture to germinate. Cuttings are easier and faster. Cut during the growing season, early spring to fall. Root in sandy soil, in containers.
Taller varieties can get floppy. You can prune them back to where the stem is firm, in very early spring. You can even root the cuttings.
Plants can be divided or repotted in early spring. If you are growing them in containers, they enjoy spending the summer outdoors. Wait until there is no danger of frost and move them back indoors in the fall.
Senecio ClassificationIf you were not confused before, you will be now!
The genus Senecio is distributed almost worldwide. It is one of the few genera occurring in all five regions with a Mediterranean climate. Furthermore, species are found in mountainous regions, including tropical alpine-like areas.
There is no common name for the whole group of Senecio plants. Each species has its own common name or names.
Many genera and the whole tribe are in need of revision. Several species currently placed in the genus need to be transferred to other or new genera, and others have been retransferred to Senecio. In its new delimitation, the genus is still not monophyletic.
Genera that have been included are the following:
Iocenes B. Nord.
Lasiocephalus Willd. ex Schltdl.
The Senecio species
Senecio ampullaceus — Texas ragwort, Texas squaw-weed, Texas groundsel, clasping-leaf groundsel
Senecio angulatus L.f. — creeping groundsel
Senecio aureus L. — golden ragwort
Packera aurea (L.) A. & D. Löve
Senecio barbertonicus Klatt — succulent bush senecio
Senecio bigelovii — nodding groundsel
Senecio bosniacus G. Beck — Bosnian ragwort
Senecio brasiliensis (Spreng.) Less. — flor-das-almas
Senecio cambrensis — Welsh groundsel, Welsh ragwort
Senecio congestus (R. Br.) DC. — marsh ragwort, clustered marsh ragwort, marsh fleabane
Senecio douglasii — threadleaf groundsel
Senecio eboracensis Abbott & Lowe — York groundsel
Senecio flaccidus Less. — Douglas senecio, threadleaf groundsel, threadleaf ragwort
Senecio gallicus Chaix — French groundsel
Senecio glabellus Poir. — butterweed
Packera glabella (Poir) C. Jeffrey
Senecio glaucus L. — Jaffa groundsel
Senecio haworthii — woolly senecio
Senecio iscoensis — Hieron.
Senecio jacobaea — is a synonym of Jacobaea vulgaris.
Senecio keniodendron — giant groundsel
Senecio leucanthemifolius Poir. — coastal ragwort
Senecio macroglossus — Natal ivy, wax ivy
Senecio mikanioides — Cape ivy, German ivy
Senecio nivalis Kunth
Senecio obovatus Muhl. — roundleaf ragwort
Packera obovata (Muhl. ex Willd.)
Senecio rowleyanus — string of pearls
Senecio scandens — German ivy
Senecio serpens — blue chalksticks
Senecio squalidus — Oxford ragwort
Senecio triangularis — arrowleaf groundsel
Senecio vernalis — eastern groundsel
Senecio viscosus — sticky ragwort
Senecio vulgaris — common groundsel, old-man-in-the-spring
Formerly in Senecio
Brachyglottis greyi (as S. greyi)
Florist’s Cineraria, Pericallis × hybrida (as S. cruentus)
Rugelia nudicaulis — Rugels ragwort
Senecio is an easy grower and will tolerate limited water, indoor light (green varieties), and lean soil. A forgiving but distinctive group of plants.
Few pests bother Senecio. They can occasionally be affected by scale and mealy bugs.
Senecio species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids have been found in Senecio nemorensis and in Senecio cannabifolius var. integrilifolius.
Are Senecio Toxic?
Many Senecio species are toxic to animals. Use care and do not plant where animals or kids might be tempted to munch on them:
- Leaves: The leaves are thick and fleshy and can be deep green, bluish or even striped. Senecio succulent leaves vary widely in shape. Some are round, some banana-shaped, some stand upright.
- Flowers: Senecio flowers form in clusters, on long stems. Different species bloom at times throughout the year. The flowers persist for weeks. Shapes include red or white spires and yellow daisy-like flowers, but it is really the foliage that interests most gardeners.
Some species produce natural biocides (especially alkaloids) to deter animals that would otherwise eat them.
Are ALL Senecio Toxic?
Senecio vulgaris is a flowering plant in the daisy family Asteraceae. It is an annual herb, native to Europe and widely naturalized as a ruderal species in suitable disturbed habitats worldwide.
The seed of common groundsel is a good green food for canaries and finches and it is available all year round.
Senecio vulgaris seed has been found in the droppings of sparrows, and seedlings have been raised from the excreta of various birds. The seed has also been found in cow manure.
Are Senecio Endangered?
Senecio cadiscus is restricted to vernal pool habitat. It is known from a few localities and has been recently extirpated from a few others. It does not occur in all of the vernal pools that are apparently available to it, and it probably does not have the ability to disperse easily.
Populations are thought to have declined over 70% in the last 100 years, and declines are ongoing.
Threats to the plant and its vernal pool ecosystem include grazing and trampling by cattle and horses. Agriculture and the human need for space and food is literally killing this species.
The devastation includes reclamation of wetlands, use of heavy machinery on the land, invasive species of grasses introduced when livestock feed is discarded in the area, and eutrophication from fertilizer runoff.
Senecio lamarckianus are endemic to Mauritius, now very rare, it is found in dry mountainous regions around the summit peaks of the island.
Senecio antisanae is a species of Senecio in the aster family found only in the subtropical or tropical moist montane region of Ecuador. I cannot find a single photo of this plant and it is listed as DD aka Data Deficient on the IUCN redlist.
Alborán is 7.1 hectares of volcanic extrusion situated 30 miles from the port of Adra, Almería on the Spanish coast and 24 miles from the Melilla on the African coast.
Click for more info on the IUCN website.
What GOOD Is Senecio?Other than to look at?
Senecio is diuretic, pectoral, diaphoretic, tonic, and exerts a peculiar influence upon the reproductive organs, and particularly of the female, which has given to it, especially the S. gracilis, the name of Female regulator.
This is one of our valuable remedies in the treatment of female diseases.
It relieves irritation and strengthens functional activity. Ovarian or uterine atony, with impairment of function, increased mucous or mucopurulent secretions, or displacements of the womb and vaginal prolapse, are the chief guides to its use.
It is very efficient in promoting the menstrual flow, and may be given alone, in infusion, or combined with equal parts of asarum and savine, in amenorrhoea, not connected with some structural lesion.
It will also be found valuable in dysmenorrhoea, sterility, and chlorosis. In menorrhagia, combined with cinnamon and raspberry leaves, it has been found very serviceable, when administered during the intermenstrual period, as well as at the time of ovulation. Tenesmic and painful micturition of both sexes is often relieved by it.
Senecio often cures leucorrhoea when associated with weakness of vaginal walls, allowing uterine displacements, and accompanied with vascular engorgement and pelvic weight. Senecio is of value in many genital disorders of the male, the indications being pelvic weight and full, tardy, or difficult urination and sensation of dragging in the testicles. Senecio aids digestion when tardy from congested or relaxed conditions of the gastric membranes. It is also useful in capillary hemorrhage, especially in hematuria, and in albuminuria, with bloody urine.
Pulmonary hemorrhage has also been checked by it. It has proved an excellent diuretic in gravel and other urinary affections, either alone, or given in combination with other diuretics, and is said to be specific in strangury.
In pulmonary and hepatic affections it has proved advantageous, and, taken freely, the decoction has effected cures of dysentery. This remedy produces its effects slowly in chronic disorders.
Senecio jacobaea is astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue and expectorant. The plant is harvested as it comes into flower and is dried for later use. Use with caution, when applied internally it can cause severe damage to the liver.
An emollient poultice is made from the leaves. The juice of the plant is cooling and astringent, it is used as a wash in burns, sores, cancerous ulcers, and eye inflammations. It makes a good gargle for ulcerated mouths and throats and is also said to take away the pain of a bee sting. Caution is advised here since the plant is poisonous and some people develop a rash from merely touching this plant.
A decoction of the root is said to be good for treating internal bruises and wounds. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of dysmenorrhoea and other female complaints, internal hemorrhages, and other internal disorders.
Senecio vulgaris Groundsel has a long history of herbal use and, although not an official plant, it is still often used by herbalists.
The whole herb is anthelmintic, antiscorbutic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue and purgative. It is often used as a poultice and is said to be useful in treating sickness of the stomach, whilst a weak infusion is used as a simple and easy purgative.
The plant can be harvested in May and dried for later use, or the fresh juice can be extracted and used as required. Use with caution. This plant should not be used by pregnant women, see also the notes above on toxicity.
A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of menstrual disorders and nose bleeds.
In Portugal, many people still use medicinal plants. Senecio serpens or Blue chalk sticks’ sap is applied in the eyes for eye infections and on the skin for wounds.
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