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senecio jacobaea - L.

Common Name Ragwort, Stinking willie
Family Asteraceae or Compositae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards All parts of the plant are poisonous[4, 19]. The plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, in isolation these substances are highly toxic to the liver and have a cumulative affect even when the whole plant is consumed[65, 254].
Habitats Waste ground and pastures on all but the poorest soils[4, 17]. It is often only an annual[17].
Range Europe, including Britain, south and east from Scandanavia to N. Africa, Caucasua and W. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
senecio jacobaea Ragwort, Stinking willie
senecio jacobaea Ragwort, Stinking willie


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
senecio jacobaea is a PERENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from June to October, and the seeds ripen from July to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, flies, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies). The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


replaced synonym of: Jacobaea vulgaris


 Meadow; Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

None known


Medicinal Uses

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Antirheumatic  Astringent  Diaphoretic  Diuretic  Emmenagogue  Expectorant  Homeopathy

The plant is astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue and expectorant[9, 21]. The plant is harvested as it comes into flower and is dried for later use[9]. Use with caution[21], when applied internally it can cause severe damage to the liver[9]. See also the notes above on toxicity. An emollient poultice is made from the leaves[4]. The juice of the plant is cooling and astringent, it is used as a wash in burns, sores, cancerous ulcers and eye inflammations[4]. It makes a good gargle for ulcerated mouths and throats and is also said to take away the pain of a bee sting[4]. Caution is advised here since the plant is poisonous and some people develop a rash from merely touching this plant[K]. A decoction of the root is said to be good for treating internal bruises and wounds[4]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant[9]. It is used in the treatment of dysmenorrhoea and other female complaints, internal haemorrhages and other internal disorders[9].


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Other Uses


A good green dye is obtained from the leaves, though it is not very permanent[4, 115]. A yellow dye is obtained from the flowers when alum is used as a mordant[4, 115, 168]. Brown and orange can also be obtained[168].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife


Cultivation details

Succeeding on all but the poorest soils, this plant is a declared noxious weed in Britain spreading freely by seed. It should not be cultivated other than in controlled conditions for scientific research. Ragwort can be eradicated by pulling it up just before it comes into flower, or by cutting it down as the flowers begin to open (this latter may need to be repeated about six weeks later)[4]. Ragwort is a good food plant for the caterpillars of many butterfly and moth species, and is one of only two species that provide food for cinnabar moth caterpillars.


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A noxious weed, it doesn't need any help in spreading itself about.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Senecio cannabifoliusAleutian ragwortPerennial2.0 4-8  LMHNM12 
Senecio cinerariaCineraria, Dusty miller, Silver GroundselShrub0.6 8-10 MLMHNDM03 
Senecio erucifoliusHoary Groundsel, Hoary ragwortPerennial0.6 5-9  LMHNDM02 
Senecio jacobaeaRagwort, Stinking williePerennial1.0 4-8  LMHSNM020
Senecio nemorensis Perennial2.0 5-9  LMHSNM11 
Senecio nemorensis fuchsii Perennial2.0 5-9  LMHSNM10 
Senecio nikoensis Perennial1.0 -  LMHSNM11 
Senecio pierotii Perennial0.6 -  LMHNM10 
Senecio pseudoarnicaSeaside RagwortPerennial0.5 -  LMNM11 
Senecio scandens Climber5.0 8-11 MLMHNM02 
Senecio sylvaticusMountain Groundsel, Woodland ragwortAnnual0.6 5-9  LMHNDM01 
Senecio viscosusSticky Groundsel, Sticky ragwortAnnual0.4 5-9  LMHNDM01 
Senecio vulgarisGroundselAnnual0.3 5-9  LMHNDM120

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

keith   Thu May 24 2007

does anyone have reliable info re horses eating Senecio?

Marace Dareau   Wed Jun 6 2007

Photographs and drawings would be helpful, especially close-ups of stems and leaves at various stages as well as flowers, this would help distinguish the plant from others. For instance we have here a plant that has similar flowers but they are not in flat-topped clusters, rather spread on minor stems throughout the plant. The plant has smooth stems but they are shaded with a purplish colour, more towards the root. The leaves are similar to those of ragwort but not so toothed. It does not have the strong smell of ragwort but rather a faint smell like chrysanthemum, which is what made me think that it was perhaps chrysantheme des moisson, but researching this I find this is corn marigold and it does not seem similar to the plant illustrated in the RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs - it does not have double flowers. The problem is with most sites a lack of photographic evidence of the details of the plant. I would be grateful for any hints of identification of the plant I have described. I do know ragwort well as we were plagued with it when we lived in Scotland - we dug up many trailer-loads of it - and I do not think that the plant we have here which is by no means so common with us but is common on some properties locally (Gers, France)is in fact ragwort, but would like to be sure ...

Gordon   Wed Jan 16 2008

I can't right now put my hand to the reference but this particular species contains poisons which can be absorbed through the skin and other bodily membranes. As the toxin has a cumulative effect I would not advise it's use at all. The liver can suffer 75% loss of function before symptoms appear which effectivley masks the effects until substantial damage has occured. Once patients begin to exhibit signs of toxic liver damage the prognosis is not usually good. With reference to horses, (Where the weed may be a contaminant of hay feed.) once symptoms appear the most common treatment is euthenasia!

jamuna   Thu Feb 21 2008

pls tell us about its establishment potential, spread, climatic requirements

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