Good Morning, Sunshine

Golden groundsel, Packera obovata,  is a yellow-flowered perennial.

Its blooms are not orange-yellow, nor are they yellow-green.

Golden groundsel flowers are yellow.

There’s no ambiguity or ambivalence with these blooms: they are yellow, yellow, yellow.

One of the earliest of the spring bloomers here in the Austin area, this perennial pretty delivers a dab of sunshine to shady spots, and for the remainder of the year, carpets those same shady spots as a hardy ground cover.

I like the foliage.  The base foliage–the leaves that you see for 10 months of the year–are composed of oval, serrated-edged leaves which form a dense mat along the ground.  In late January, early February, the plant sends up slender stems along which grow more deeply lobed leaves.    In essence, the plant produces two styles of foliage.

It’s a plant with a two-for-one set of leaves!

As groundsel gears up for its spring show,  the slender flower stems develop clusters of buds which eventually open with radiant yellow blooms.  Viewing these beauties first thing in the morning is as good a wake-up as any strong cup of coffee.  In a garden or along a trail, you can’t miss these shards of sunshine–they demand attention.  Even before my own little patch of groundsel flowered-up, I’d spied a number of groundsels blooming along some urban trails where I hike.

These flowers are not shy and will not be ignored.

While Golden groundsel isn’t host to any particular insect, the flowers are good nectar sources for native bees and butterflies.  Somehow, I didn’t get any photos of the pollinators on my groundsel blooms, though I observed some tiny native Perdita bees.  In early March, I spotted this hairstreak on a groundsel flower at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

On a petal of the flower just below where  the hairstreak nectars, sits another insect. Bee, beetle, or bug, I can’t discern.

The patch of groundsel was growing in full sun and bloomed much earlier than mine.  On that early March day, the blooms appeared to be nearing the end of their cycle.

Just this week, some of my groundsel flowers have begun to seed out.

Snowy, fuzzy seedheads, clearly designed for wind dispersal, have replaced some of the sunny flowers, and many more will follow in similar fashion.  Golden groundsels are in the Asteraceae family of plants and demonstrate the pappus structure of seed development.  The delicate, hairy attachments carry the actual seed aloft on wind, planting themselves in other places and other gardens for future groundsel goodness.

Many of the native Texas plants that I grow seed out prolifically, but not the Golden groundsel.  Even though I allow mine to seed out, I’ve never found any groundsel seedlings in other parts of my garden.  What I have noticed is that my patch is leaning toward its neighbor, a group of iris, as the groundcover part of the plant is steadily creeping into their space.

Or perhaps, it’s the iris which are marching toward the groundsel.  Either way, I plan to expand the range of my groundsel. The groundsel leaves, presumably with roots attached, are outgrowing the original area that I devoted to it.  In late summer or early fall–once we’re out of our tough Texas summer–I’ll remove several of the abutting iris to make room for the groundsel plants.  I love my iris and they bloom for a longer time, but I have plenty of iris in my garden and not nearly enough Golden groundsel.  By transplanting a few more groundsel plants, I’ll welcome to more in my garden.

Native to Central Texas, Golden groundsel enjoys a wide distribution throughout North America.  As long as you can find seeds or plants, there’s no reason not to enjoy this lovely plant.  It’s a tough, easy-to-grow perennial with a bright disposition.

Just remember to don your sunglasses when they start blooming.

14 thoughts on “Good Morning, Sunshine

  1. I thought I was seeing golden groundsel south of Seguin and around Gonzales, but I think I ran into Texas ragwort (Senecio ampullaceus) instead. I noticed in Michael Eason’s new book that Packera obovata is given the common name roundleaf ragwort rather than groundsel. I have no idea why, but it does reflect its similarity in appearance to Texas ragwort.

    Now, if I just can figure out how to identify both — and butterweed! — all will be well. I do I found golden groundsel in Palacios yesterday, but I need to settle down with my book, my dictionary of plant terms, and the plants, and spend a little more time than a quick glance.

    When I was up in the hill country I did find prairie groundsel (P. plattensis) and there’s no mistaking that one. I’ve got a couple of photos I’ll be putting up. The buds are really something.

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    • The flowers are all similar, I can only tell them apart by the foliage. A couple of years ago I had a P. glabella show up, unannounced in a side garden. I watched it until it bloomed and then, flowers and foliage having appeared, I could identify it. Sadly, it didn’t seed out, or at least, not in my garden. I wrote about it here: https://mygardenersays.com/2017/03/22/cousins/

      The LBCWC also uses Roundleaf ragwort as a common name–one of several. Flowers are like that, lots of names, lots of descriptions!

      The prairie groundsel always seems more sunflower-y to me!

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      • I found photos of the golden grounsel and Texas ragwort in my new photos this afternoon. It is possible to tell those blooms apart!

        Here’s a silly question: what’s the LBCWC?

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      • I have no idea what the LBCWC is! Wow–no clue what I was thinking! I meant the LBJWC–Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center). Sheesh, it must be the cold. 🙂

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  2. While growing hundreds of cultivars of rhododendrons, we could not keep track of all the colors. Girls are better at that sort of thing of course. (Although they could just make up names for colors at they go, just to keep us wondering and believing that they are somehow perceptually superior.) Yet, with all of our cultivars, only a few were in the yellow range, and even fewer were good clear yellow. None were completely yellow. White, which is my favorite color, happens to be rare too. Although there are a few white rhododendrons. only TWO are pure white, without blotches, spots, stripes, blush or whatever keeps them from being pure white; and neither of the pure whites are something I would want in my own garden. One blooms with spherical trusses that look like tennis balls on sparsely foliated sticks. The other has very impressive trusses, but one seemingly liquid stems that must be staked. Well, don’t get me started on blue.

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      • I seem to find the literature to be often opposite in my garden. The elderberry wss supposed to rot and die in the site I picked (I read after I’d planted it.) It’s more than tripled in size.
        The blackberries were supposed to thrive where I’d put them ( I’d read up in advance.) Two of the three died.
        Perhaps these books are more often than not written in surprise riddles that the plants find funny.

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