Round-leaved groundsel, or round-leaved ragwort, is a branching, usually single-stemmed perennial often found in colonies. The small, bright yellow flowerheads are terminal on a long stalk with few leaves. The ray flowers are few, looking somewhat ragged. Blooms April–June. The leaves are mostly basal, rounded to spoon-shaped, toothed, the leaf tissue conspicuously continued into the petiole, to 3½ inches long. The stem leaves are few, sessile, often deeply lobed.
Learn more about Missouri's ragworts on their group page.
Similar species: Seven Packera species occur in Missouri, plus a number of hybrids having intermediate characteristics that make identification tricky. Golden ragwort (P. aurea) also has mostly basal leaves, but they are heart-shaped and pointed at the tip, not spoon-shaped. Prairie ragwort (P. plattensis) has mostly basal leaves, but they are shaped like a pointed paddle. It is scattered statewide in open, grassy, drier habitats. Butterweed (P. glabella) lacks basal leaves; its stem leaves are pinnate, deeply lobed, with rounded teeth. It is found on floodplains of big rivers in southeast and east-central Missouri.
Height: to 2 feet.
Scattered nearly statewide, mostly south of Missouri River, but apparently absent from the Mississippi Lowlands and portions of the Glaciated Plains.
Habitat and Conservation
Grows in bottomland forests, rich upland forests, banks of streams, ledges of bluffs, and rarely moist depressions of glades and upland prairies; also roadsides and open, disturbed areas.
This plant was called “squaw-weed” for many years. Today, that term has dropped out of use because it is understood as at least a demeaning, if not deeply offensive term. In the past, many understood the word to mean merely “Native American woman,” and it was often used in names for plants that had historic medicinal uses for illnesses specific to women.
This plant is poisonous if eaten, but it was also used in folk medicine. Such is the case with many plants that contain powerful chemical compounds. Some groundsel species, including this one, are used in native wildflower gardening.
Bees and other insects visit the flowers. The northern metalmark (Calephelis borealis), a butterfly that is critically imperiled in Missouri and threatened wherever it occurs, uses this species as a larval food plant. Because this plant is toxic to eat, most mammals do not eat it.