FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Senecio smallii is a mounding perennial with long narrow basal leaves. In spring clusters of golden-yellow daisies rise above the foliage on sturdy stems. Plants form large colonies over time in sunny or shaded moist to dry sites
HABITAT & HARDINESS: The range of Senecio smallii extends from New York to the Florida panhandle and west to Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Plants are indigenous to meadows, savannas, woodland clearings, granite flatrock communities, ketone dolomite outcrops, roadsides, ditch banks, pastures, dry fields and disturbed sites. This adaptable species is found in a wide variety of soils and light levels.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 3-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Senecio smallii is an upright mostly unbranched perennial wildflower.
Leaves are semi-evergreen and mostly basal with 2-6” length and ½-1½” width. The blades are toothed with long petioles. They are narrowly elliptical or lance shaped. Leaves and stems are usually clothed in dense white hairs when young but are smoother with age.
The leaves are clustered into a rosette with a flowering stalk that emerges from the center. The leaves on the stalk are smaller and pinnately lobed.
The stalk terminates in a flat headed corymb of 20-100 flowerheads. The daisy-like heads are 1/2” across. The central cone consists of many disc florets surrounded by 6-16 yellow ray florets. Blooming begins in spring and lasts for about 3 weeks.
Both ray and disc florets mature into bullet-shaped achenes each with a white hairy pappus. The fluffy pappus allows the achenes to be distributed by the wind.
Plants grow 1-2’ tall with 1’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Senecio smallii is an adaptable species that flourishes in sun or part shade in mesic or dry sites. Plants tolerate clay, drought, alkaline pH and barren soils with low fertility.
This species is fairly pest resistant and is unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.
LANDSCAPE USES: This is a good choice for a Meadow Groundcover, Grouping or Mass. Senecio smallii has Showy Blooms and can be used as a Cut Flower and in Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Low Maintenance Plantings, Perennial Borders, Roadsides, Restoration Projects and Wildlife Gardens.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try planting Senecio smallii in a dry meadow with Amsonia tabernaemontana, Asclepias verticillata, Deschampsia cespitosa, Penstemon digitalis, Phlox pilosa, Schizachyrium scoparium and Sporobolus heterolepis.
Senecio aureus is shade and moisture loving version of S. smallii which can be substituted in some sites.
TRIVIA: Several species of small bees, bumblebees, butterflies, hoverflies and pollinating flies seek nectar and pollen from the flowers. The foliage is toxic to most herbivores.
If excess amounts of Senecio spp. are consumed, an ailment known as “seneciosis” occurs causing jaundice and other liver issues, clumsiness, confusion and light sensitivity in humans or livestock.
Senecio smallii was named in honor of noted botanist John Kunkel Small in 1890. It was later discovered that the species had previously been named Senecio anonymous in 1861. To add to the confusion, the North American Senecio spp. were recently reclassified into the genus Packera. So… this species is known as Senecio smallii, Senecio anonymous and Packera anonyma.
For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=PAAN6