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Senecio squalidus is a yellow-flowering plant native to Mount Etna, Sicily. The plant was introduced to Britain in the early 18th century in Oxford; its means of arrival are unknown. But there are some records on those who were involved in the plants’ migration: one Italian monk, a British diplomat, and the Duchess of Beaufort who were passionate about collecting plants from wherever they could. There was also the head of the Oxford Botanic Garden who worked with the Duchess. Following many years of cultivation in the Garden, the Sicilian plant escaped into the wild and began to grow on the stonework of Oxford’s colleges. The seeds of the plants spread even further, reaching as far as Oxford Railway Station, and from there, to various sites across the UK. This Oxonian origin gave the plant its common name, “Oxford ragwort”, classified as a weed in its new home. Professor Simon Hiscock, Director of the Oxford Botanic Garden, says, “Oxford ragwort is an extremely successful colonizer”.


Reference: Hiscock SJ., Genetic control of self-incompatibility in Senecio squalidus L., Heredity (Edinb). 2000 Jul;85 (Pt 1):10-9.