Fen ragwort (Senecio paludosus)

GenusSenecio (1)
SizeHeight: up to 200 cm (2)

Listed as Critically Endangered on the UK Red List (3), and fully protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (4).

This fenland plant is one of England's rarest wild plants (5). It can grow up to 2 meters in height, produces many large yellow daisy-like blooms, and has large leaves with saw-toothed margins (6).

This species was once known from Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire. It was first recorded in England in 1660 (6), and by 1857 it was believed to have become extinct in the UK, until in 1972 (6) a single plant was re-discovered in Cambridgeshire (5). It has since been reintroduced to five sites in its former range, including Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve (2) and Flag Fen in Peterborough (5).

Inhabits damp habitats such as fenland, marshes (2) and wet ditches (7).

Unlike other ragworts, fen ragwort is not an invasive species (2). It is a perennial plant (5) that can withstand flooding for up to six months (7).

The cause of the decline of this species is due to the widespread drainage of fenland habitats and their conversion to arable land (5).

Fen ragwort was one of the first plants to be included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme (5). This programme is funding the conservation of the species in collaboration with Anglian Water. Measures that have been taken to help the species escape extinction in the UK include reintroductions to former sites, and research into the ecological requirements of the plant, carried out by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology (2). A nursery has been established for rearing plantlets, grown from the seeds of the last remaining plant (5), and populations are carefully monitored (7). The fen ragwort is fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 (4).

For more information on English Nature's Species Recovery Programme see:

Information authenticated by Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity:

  1. Hilton-Taylor, C. (compiler) 2000. 2000 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. xviii + 61pp. Downloaded on 21 March 2002. http://www.redlist.org/search/details.php?species=33728
  2. Wicken Fen (March 2002): www.demon.co.uk/ecoln/wicken_fen/sprecov.html#Senecio
  3. JNCC (March 2002): www.jncc.gov.uk/species/pstatus/p2_1.htm
  4. JNCC (March 2002): www.jncc.gov.uk/species/protect/plants.htm
  5. English Nature (March 2003): www.english-nature.org.uk/news/story.asp?ID=284
  6. Mabey, R. (1996). Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London
  7. English Nature (March 2003): www.english-nature.org.uk/science/srp/fen_ragwort.htm