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Common Groundsel

Did You Know?

A few facts:

  • Has some medicinal properties
  • Belongs to the aster family
  • Found in both spring and fall

How to get rid of Common Groundsel:

  • Remove by hand or mechanically
  • Apply mulch prior to seed germination
  • Treat with herbicides

Information by Rakesh Chandran, Ph.D., WVU Extension Weed Science Specialist

One of Mother Nature’s mysterious ways is to adorn the landscape with certain weeds each spring. In 2021, one weed that popped up in several West Virginia landscapes was common groundsel (Senecio vulgaris). It began germinating and blooming following the first few weeks of warm weather from mid-March to early April in many parts of the state. Environmental conditions, weed seed bank in the soil and germination requirements are usually the main factors that play a role in the dominance of certain weeds in a given year.

Common groundsel is an annual weed that belongs to the aster family (Asteraceae), but it can behave as a winter annual or as a summer annual, completing three to four generations during a year with blooms into the late-summer months. While it is thought to have originated in Northern Africa or Eurasia, it is now considered to be a cosmopolitan weed globally.

Common Groundsel Identification

Mature common groundsel seeds.

Common groundsel is usually seen in garden landscapes, along roadsides and in fallow fields. The leaves of common groundsel are oval or lance-shaped with deep lobes and toothed margins. Shortly after emergence, it produces tiny flowerheads with yellow ray florets enclosed in cup-shaped sepals. Mature seeds are soon formed with a pappus of hairs, resembling dandelions but smaller that can detach easily from flowers to be dispersed by wind. Groundsel spends about one-third of its total energy toward seed production. Seeds do not persist in disturbed soils for more than two years, whereas in undisturbed soils they can thrive for more than six years. The root system is shallow with a short taproot and branched fibrous roots. It prefers moist soils and is seen during both spring and fall months.

As an herb, common groundsel has been documented to be an anthelmintic, diuretic and to treat certain sicknesses of the stomach.

Common Groundsel Control

During early stages of growth, common groundsel’s shallow root system can be taken advantage of by hand-weeding or mechanical control. Mechanical control is effective when carried out before flowers open. Opened flowers are known to form viable seeds even after the plant is killed by cultivation or by an herbicide. Other physical methods may include applying mulches prior to seed germination. 

Biological control is not widely adopted, although certain organisms, such as the cinnabar moth larvae (Tyria jacobaeae) and ragwort flea beetle (Longitarsus jacobaeae), have been documented to be herbivorous. Groundsel plants infected by the rust (Puccinia lagenophorae) can be killed through secondary inoculation with a fungus (Botrytis cinerea). 

Chemical control options prior to germination of common groundsel in landscape ornamentals include indaziflam (Specticle, Marengo), flumioxazin (Broadstar) and oryzalin+oxyfluorfen (Rout). Apart from directed application of glyphosate (several formulations), flumioxazin (Broadstar) also can be used to control emerged groundsel in landscapes. The herbicide isoxaben (Gallery) when applied prior to germination can be used to control this weed in cool-season turfgrasses. Once it germinates, selective herbicides that contain sulfentrazone (Q4) or halosulfuron (Sedgehammer) are effective.

Author: Rakesh Chandran, WVU Extension Weed Science Specialist 
Last Reviewed: June 2020

Recommendations for the use of agricultural chemicals are included as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services does not imply endorsement by West Virginia University Extension nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use agricultural chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage regulations and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact your county Cooperative Extension agent.