Saturday, June 01, 2002

What is that yellow weed?

Cressleaf groundsel filling area fields

By Randy McNutt,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONROE — Those mysterious yellow weeds that have invaded fields and farms locally are gaining ground all across Ohio.

[photo] Cressleaf Groundsel turns a farm field yellow in Butler County.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        “I drove up Interstate 75 and saw them all over the place — very prevalent,” said Steve Bartels, an agricultural extension agent for the Ohio State University's program in Butler County. “Everybody I meet in restaurants and stores asks me the same question: What is that yellow weed?”

        Most likely it is the cressleaf groundsel, senecio glabellus, a pretty plant that is “turning whole fields into a sea of yellow,” Mr. Bartels said.

        The plant is relatively new to Ohio. In 1988, he said, it was found in only four counties: Butler, Preble, Ottawa and Erie. He doesn't know where it originated.

        “Today it can be easily found in every county south of Findlay and west of Columbus,” Mr. Bartels said.

        Several factors contribute to its spread. Farmers are doing more no-till farming, which means the plant isn't killed, Mr. Bartels said. And wet ground has kept some farmers from working their fields.

        That means more cressleaf groundsel seeds wiil accumulate in the environment over the summer, he said.

        In Warren County, the plant has grown heavily in past years, said Bruce Goodwin of Goodwin Farms of Pleasant Plain.

        “We sprayed a lot for it this year, so it's not as bad as in the past,” he said.

        Although the plant poses no threat to farmers, it can irritate people's allergies and it's slightly toxic to livestock, Mr. Bartels said.

        The winter annual — also known as yellowtop, butterweed, golden ragwort and yellow ragwort — has often been mistakenly identified as yellow rocket and wild mustard.

        It is a member of the astraceae family; it germinates in late fall and dies the next summer. The plant grows 3 feet tall.

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