Butterweed March 05, 2008
Most of Texas and Louisiana are showing the signs of spring. Like a tightly stretched rubber-band, one could almost sense the impending action about to be unleashed. Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Red-wing Blackbirds were pointed north in the apparent wait for the perfect moment. American Robins and Mourning Doves sang early morning chorus.
The flora is a bit slower to leap into action. Yes, those non-native daffodils were putting on a sunny display, but the native flowers- just peeking open. All but the Butterweed.
Butterweed, Packera glabella is in interesting plant, deserving of a closer look. Formerly called Senecio glabellus, it is one of those many Asteraceae family members being re-classified with new (or sometimes old) names.
Butterweed was commonly found in the lower states, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and the like, but it is a relative newcomer to the north. In the last 10-20 years it is gaining a foot-hold, especially in agricultural areas of disturbed soils and moist areas in southern Ohio. In recent years, entire low-lying fields shine with yellow in the early spring, as Butterweed eclipses even the display of dandelions.
Butterweed, also called cressleaf groundsel, is even being seen as far north as Marion, Crawford and Richland counties. At least one botanist believes it is probably in every Ohio county, and could well be a contaminate of agricultural seed. The USDA lists it as a native in the lower forty-eight states, but interestingly enough- a noxious weed in Ohio.
Although a beautiful plant, it does give pause for concern with its tendency to dominate a landscape. Novices often confuse it for other members of the Packera/Senecio genus; this is not the desirable Roundleaf Ragwort, Packera obovata which is the host plant for the highly desirable Northern Metalmark butterfly.
Look a little more closely this spring, and see if your county is under Invasion of the Butterweeds. Sounds like a bad horror movie title. :)
Note: While web linking this article to data- I stumbled across an interesting book title to share with you. The Weeds in my Garden
looks like something any native plant lover would enjoy.