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   The four Asteraceae pictured on this page were originally placed in the Senecio genus by Asa Gray in the mid-1800s; many modern botanical guides, including John Kartesz's Synthesis of the North American Flora (the ultimate authority for all names on this web site), the Flora of North America, and Intermountain Flora, retain the Senecio classification. 

   In 1973 William Weber made the case for moving these four species to the Ligularia genus, a genus established by Cassini in 1816.

   Weber indicates that Ligularia has turbinate, nodding, succulent heads; succulent, coarsely dentate, often purplish, and clasping leaves; roots little branched and ropy; and a strong lemon scent.  Senecio has none of these characteristics.

   As indicated above, most other botanists disagree with Weber and retain Asa Gray's designation of Senecio.  

   "Ligula" is Latin for "strap", probably referring to the long petals or leaves of some members of this genus.

   Linnaeus named the Senecio genus in 1753, and there are now about a thousand species world-wide. "Senecio" is from the Latin, "senes", "old man", and refers to the pappus hairs, the tiny bristle, hair, or awn growth at the apex of the seeds in Asteraceae.

Click for close-up photographs of the 
species shown on this page.

Senecio amplectens variety amplectens

Senecio amplectens variety amplectens Synonym: Ligularia amplectens. 
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Woodlands, openings. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 30, 2004.

This is a common, very cheerful Sunflower that grows scattered or in small patches in high mountain mid-summer.  It grows very straight and upright, but its flowers demurely nod.  Flower rays are a bright lemon-yellow and ray tips are pointed.  Some botanical keys indicate that basal leaves are withered at flowering time, but, as the photograph at left shows, basal leaves can be present at flowering time.  Lower leaves are wider, longer, and more numerous than stem leaves; all leaves may be relatively smooth-margined or, as in this case, toothed.

"Amplect" is "to embrace", referring to the way in which the base of the leaves clasps the stems, especially noticeable in the top leaf.

Asa Gray named this plant Senecio amplectens in 1862 from a specimen collected by Charles Parry in Colorado.  Synthesis of the North American Flora and Intermountain Flora combine this species with Ligularia holmii, shown at the bottom of this page; the species shown at the left is called Senecio amplectens variety amplectens and the species at the bottom of the page is called Senecio amplectens variety holmii.

Click for close-up photographs of the species shown on this page.

Senecio bigelovii

Senecio bigelovii variety hallii

Senecio bigelovii variety hallii .  Synonym: Ligularia bigelovii
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows. Summer.
Bolam Pass Road, August 2, 2014 and
El Diente Trail, July 22, 2004.

So often hikers pass by this plant seeing only the dark maroon, yellow, or green nodding flower head and thinking that the flower is not yet open  --  or that it is in seed.  But tilting up the strongly nodding heads in mid and late summer will reveal a myriad of tightly packed yellow disk flowers. 

Senecio bigelovii variety hallii is quite common in mountain forests and meadows, often growing in large scattered clusters.  It is very similar to Senecio amplectens in its growth pattern but has no ray flowers.

John Milton Bigelow, 1804-1878, was a botanist and member of several Western expeditions in the New Mexico area.  He collected the first specimen of this plant for science in the mountains of north-central New Mexico while with the Whipple Survey in 1853-1855.  Asa Gray named the plant in 1857.  (More biographical information about Bigelow.)

Click for close-up photographs of the species shown on this page.

Senecio amplectens variety holmii
Senecio amplectens variety holmii.  Synonym: Ligularia holmii Senecio holmii
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Meadows, scree. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 18, 2005.

Those who never climb to alpine scree fields miss so much.  But even those who do, often miss the flowers because the rocks are so pervasive and arresting.  Careful observation reveals numerous species of plants tucked into lichen-covered scree and talus fields. The lichen and wind and water erosion provide the soil for these plants to thrive.  One such plant is the lovely Senecio amplectens variety holmii here shown at 12,000 foot Sharkstooth Pass. Senecio amplectens variety holmii grows from two to twelve inches tall with a mass of vertical, reddish tinged, thick leaves and drooping, bright lemon yellow flowers.

Herman Holm, 1854-1932, was a naturalist, explorer, and Assistant Botanist of the United States Department of Agriculture.  He collected and wrote about Colorado flora. See the information above on Senecio amplectens. (More biographical information about Holm.)

Click for close-up photographs of the species shown on this page.

Senecio soldanella
Senecio soldanella.  Synonym: Ligularia soldanella. 
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Alpine. Scree. Summer.
Black Bear Pass, July 20, 2008.

Senecio soldanella is a distinctive plant that is not only easy to spot because its purple is so eye-catching against the barren rocks it inhabits, but it is also easy to identify because nothing else looks like it.  Above the purple, large, and fleshy leaves are bright yellow flower heads which are quite large relative to the plant size.

Senecio soldanella is found throughout the mountains of Colorado but nowhere else except for Taos County, New Mexico.

Asa Gray named this plant Senecio soldanella and William Weber renamed it Ligularia soldanella, maintaining that the plant is not a true Senecio.  According to Calflora Names, "Soldanella" is "an Italian diminutive of "soldo", "coin," thus "a small coin," referring to the round leaves of some" plants given this name.

Click for close-up photographs of the species shown on this page.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Senecio amplectens variety amplectens

Range map for Senecio amplectens variety amplectens

Senecio amplectens variety holmii

Senecio amplectens variety holmii

Senecio bigelovii variety hallii

Range map for Senecio bigelovii variety hallii

Senecio soldanella 

Range map for Senecio soldanella 

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