Senecio’s are a group of plants that belong to the Daisy (Asteraceae) family. Locally one member of the family Senecio Jacobaea (Ragwort) is well known as a serious pest to landholders and its impact was one of the contributing reasons that many farms in the Strzelecki Ranges were abandoned. There are however a good number of Senecio’s that are native plants and are an important part of the local environment, particularly as colonisers of disturbed sites, and thus providing ground cover to reduce erosion and keep out introduced weeds.
Three of the local species Fireweed Groundsel (Senecio linearfolius), Variable Groundsel (Senecio pinnatifolius) and Shrubby Fireweed (Senecio minimus) are most common in the wet and damp forest vegetation classes. There are four other species described below, these species are more likely to be encountered at sites that have less rainfall, such as the lowland forest vegetation in Traralgon South Flora and Fauna Reserve.
Rough Fireweed (Senecio hispidulus) grows up to 1 metre tall and has green shiny leaves that have toothed lobes. They are covered in tiny hairs that make them feel a bit like sandpaper to touch. At the base of the leaves where they attach to the stem there are a pair of lobes with teeth (auricles). The underside of the leaves are covered in longer white hairs. Like all of the four species described in this post the flower heads are surrounded by green bracts, without any of the yellow ray florets that look like petals.
Annual Fireweed (Senecio glomeratus) Annual Fireweed has some features in common with Rough Fireweed, it also has toothed lobes at the base of the leaves and the flowerbuds look similar. It is without the roughly textured leaves, it is usually covered in soft cobwebby type hairs.
Slender Fireweed (Senecio tenuiflorus) as its common name suggests, Slender Fireweed is a more delicate looking plant. Its lower leaves are crowded with toothed margins, while the leaves further up the plant become narrower and more slender. The upper-side of the leaves are slightly cobwebby, while the back of the leaves are quite hairy, at the base of the plant they are usually purple.
Cotton Fireweed (Senecio quadridentatus) – Cotton Fireweed often grows in the same locations as Slender Fireweed and is also quite slender. It is a widespread species and will come up in disturbed areas where little other native vegetation exists, it can withstand dry conditions. It is covered with dense cottony hairs, which can help with its identification, they give the plant its somewhat grey appearance.