THE FEATURED PLANT is the new section in the LIFE medCLIFFS blog. With it we want to bring you a little closer to plants, either alien or native, either naturalised or endemic, either invasive or endangered… because only by knowing well the species that surround us, we can improve the conservation of our natural habitats. The first one is Senecio angulatus.
Senecio angulatus L. f.
Although this species is not included in the Spanish Catalogue of Invasive Species, it is probably one of the alien species most present on the Catalan coast and which has a clearly invasive behaviour.
On the Costa Brava it is one of the five most observed species by the LIFE medCLIFFS Observers Network (137 observations), and often forms large populations that invade both the cliffs and the nearby scrubland or even the undergrowth, displacing native flora species such as mastic (Pistacia lentiscus).
It is a perennial plant of the Asteraceae family native to South Africa, which was introduced in Catalonia during the 1970s for use as a groundcover plant in gardening. Although it is usually a climbing plant, it can also have a bushy habit.
It has a powerful growth, with a great capacity to cover the whole space, and can reach 5 m in height. It can easily be found in environments with a strong human presence, and can grow along roadsides, from where it can colonise natural areas.
How can you identify it?
It is quite easy to identify it. Its leaves are fleshy and diamond-shaped, with 2-3 shallow lobes, giving it a similar appearance to ivy. The leaves are distributed alternately on the stems, which are slightly fleshy and creeping, covering the ground where it grows and climbing up walls, trees and even on top of other smaller plants, which it gradually replaces.
It flowers between October and April, so now is a good time to find it in blossom and be able to recognise it easily.
It is very similar to Delairea odorata, but it differs just because of its flowers: in Senecio angulatus the flowers are grouped in yellow heads, with tubular flowers in the centre and ligulate flowers at the edges; on the other hand, Delairea odorata has yellow heads too, but only with tubular flowers (colloquially we could call them “without petals”).
Like many asteraceae, when it fructifies it forms cypsela fruits with white hair pappus, causing the capitula to change from having yellow “petals” to form whitish balls, similar to those formed by a dandelion, but smaller in size.
Take a look to the pictures on this post, all of them are the work of Rosa Mari Gabarró, who knows very well the natural habitats in the area of Roses and Cap de Creus and who, with 51 observations, is the main observer of this species in the LIFE medCLIFFS Observers Network. Follow her Instagram profile, @rosamari.gabarro, she won’t leave you indifferent!
Photo credits: Rosa Mari Gabarró Junyent