As a result of high rainfall this season, there are a lot of different weeds flourishing in Vinoland right now, and not all of them are as pleasing to me as the well-disposed field marigold that I blogged about last year. One particular weed, common groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) appears to be thriving in Vinoland right now: it's everywhere!
Groundsel has the ability to adapt to many kinds of environmental conditions and can be found growing just about anywhere. And, this year it seems to have discovered, in Vinoland, an environment that it really, really likes. Fortunately, it mostly dies off in the long, dry summers we have here in California, but the seeds produced during the dry months are simply biding their time until the very first hint of moisture, come autumn, awakens them. Groundsel contains high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids which, if ingested in large quantities, are toxic to humans and livestock - lovely. It can be such a nuisance that the state of Colorado has it listed as a hazardous, noxious plant. It is a vulgar weed, indeed.
Groundsel's one and only redeeming feature is that it reminds me of my grandmother, as she used to feed her pet budgerigars groundsel leaves as a treat. My gran would often ask me to go out and find some, which invariably meant going out into the road, as no groundsel dared rear it's ugly cotyelons in my grandfather's pristine, weed-free garden. The memory of groundsel can, and does, elicit a smile from me. The reality of groundsel, proliferating everyplace I glance, only serves to make me frown.