Ragwort Study Project

On this page you can find out more about a study by Kevin Widdowson, botanical trainer and member of BSBI's Training & Education Committee, into the morphological differences between the involucres and achenes of the two genera of ragworts, Senecio and Jacobaea. Kevin launched his study with an exhibit and a lightning talk at the 2019 BSBI Exhibition Meeting, held at the Natural History Museum, London.

The study outlined below remains the sole intellectual property of Kevin Widdowson but it is facilitated and supported by BSBI.

Kevin invites you to contribute to his Ragwort study

"Can you help? This growing season was going to be the launch of my project studying the differences between the two ragwort genera, Senecio and Jacobaea. The aim is to look at the shape of the involucre (see image top right for an explanation of botanical terms used here) and test the hypothesis that Senecio species have an involucre shape at a ratio of 1:1 in profile whereas Jacobaea species have an involucre shape at a ratio of 1:2 in profile (see image middle right).

"Now that we are likely to have restricted movement for the time being I am scaling down the data collection I had planned BUT there are still some research opportunities that you can get involved with right now, so I am asking for people to send me photographs of groundsel Senecio vulgaris flower heads collected from your garden or immediate vicinity, e.g. while taking part in the BSBI Garden Wildflower Hunt.

"I need images of the flower head (capitulum) in profile against a scaled background.

"You can make a scaled background by either putting two rulers together into an 'L' shape, or else by making a chart (as in the image below right) and then please photograph the chart or pair of rulers with the involucre in place, so showing the height and the width.

"Then please send the image to the following address: [email protected]

"By submitting your details, you will be opting in to a privacy policy which conforms to BSBI standards. When sending the photograph please name the file Svulgaris along with a rough location, ideally a 4 figure grid reference but the nearest town and county would suffice.

"The data you send me will be gratefully received and will contribute to a scientific paper which will be submitted for publication to British & Irish Botany, BSBI's open access, online scientific journal.

"If you would like to be included in a credit list you can also opt in to this by adding your name to the file, e.g. Svulgaris SK6789 kevin widdowson.jpg or you can opt out and submit the photo anonymously or under a pseudonym if you prefer".