A distinctive species, owing to its bright yellow flowers and pungent smell, the woolly ragwort (Senecio littoralis) is named for the whitish woolly hairs which cover the flower buds and leaves. Generally grey-green in colour, the woolly ragwort has tall, woody stems which bear single yellow daisies when the plant is in flower, and are often split into many branches at the base. The leaves vary in shape, from oblong to long and narrow, and are densely felted on the underside, with a sparse covering of woolly hairs on the upper surface (2).
The woolly ragwort is a perennial species which flowers primarily in the summer months of November to January, although it is sometimes recorded flowering into late February (2). Like other species in the Compositae family, the flowers of the woolly ragwort are contained on a specialised head-like inflorescence, called a ‘capitulum’. Despite looking like a single flower, each daisy is actually made up of many tiny, individual flowers, called ‘florets’, which are surrounded by larger outer petals (5). The base (calyx) of each flower is usually wide, and the petals (ray-florets) tend to be spaced apart with gaps between them (2).
A widespread species, the woolly ragwort is found among rocks in both coastal and inland areas, between sea level and 305 metres (1)(3)(4). It is particularly common among diddle-dee (Empetrum rubrum) and mixed grasses in heathland habitats (2).
As part of the native flora of the Falkland Islands, the woolly ragwort faces a range of threats. Historically, much of the Falklands' native flora was cleared for agriculture through grazing and burning, meaning that many native species now have restricted distributions across the islands. In addition, introduced and invasive species and increasing levels of tourism are placing further pressure on native species (4)(5).
The woolly ragwort will no doubt benefit from conservation programmes which are currently focusing on protecting plant species of the Falklands Islands and mitigating the threats to their survival (6). Falklands Conservation is working in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on identifying important plant areas throughout the islands (7), while the Falklands Islands Plant Conservation Project, with assistance from Falklands Conservation, is developing a strategy for the long-term conservation of the islands’ threatened flora, with plans for sustainable land management and protection. Public education projects are also aiming to tackle human disturbances to natural environments (8).
ARKive is supported by OTEP, a joint programme of funding from the UK FCO and DFID which provides support to address priority environmental issues in the Overseas Territories, and Defra
Woods, R.W. (2000) Flowering Plants of the Falkland Islands. Falklands Conservation, The Falkland Islands.
Broughton, D.A. and McAdam, J.H. (2005) A checklist of the native vascular flora of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas): new information on the species present, their ecology, status and distribution. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society, 132: 115-148.
Broughton, D.A. and McAdam, J.H. (2002) A red data list for the Falkland Island vascular flora. Oryx, 36: 279-287.
Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
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