Common Groundsel is so well known throughout Great Britain, that

it needs scarcely any description. It is very prolific, and found in

every sort of cultivated ground, being a small plant of the Daisy

tribe, but without any [244] outer white rays to its yellow

flower-heads. These are compact little bundles, at first of a dull

yellow colour, until presently the florets fall off and leave the

white woolly pappus of the se
ds collected together, somewhat

resembling the hoary hairs of age. They have suggested the name

of the genus senecio, from the Latin senex, an old man:--

Quod canis simili videatur flore capillis;

Cura facit canos quamvis vir non habet annos.

With venerable locks the Groundsel grows;

Hard care more quick than years white head-gear shows.

In the fifteenth century this herb went by the name of Grondeswyle,

from grund, ground, and swelgun, to swallow, and to this day it

is called in Scotland Grundy Swallow, or Ground Glutton.

Not being attractive to insects or visited by them the Groundsel is

fertilized by the wind. It flowers throughout the whole year, and is

the favourite food of many small birds, being thus given to canaries,

and to other domesticated songsters.

The weed, named at first Ascension, is called in the Eastern

counties by corruption Senshon and Simson. Its leaves are fleshy,

with a bitter saline taste, whilst the juice is slightly acrid, but

emollient. In this country farriers give it to horses for bot-worms,

and in Germany it is employed as a vermifuge for children. A weak

infusion of the whole plant with boiling water makes a simple and

easy purgative dose, but a strong infusion will act as an emetic. For

the former purpose two drachms by weight of the fresh plant should

be boiled in four fluid ounces of water, and the same decoction

serves as a useful gargle for a [245] sore throat from catarrh.

Chemically it contains senecin and seniocine.

In the hands of Simplers the Groundsel formerly held high rank as a

herb of power. Au old herbal prescribes against toothache to dig up

Groundsel with a tool that hath no iron in it, and touch the tooth five

times with the plant, then spit thrice after each touch, and the cure

will be complete. Hill says the fresh roots if smelled when first

taken out of the ground, are an immediate cure for many forms of

headache. To apply the bruised leaves will serve for preventing

boils, and the plant, if taken as a sallet with vinegar, is good for

sadness of the heart. Gerard says Women troubled with the mother

(womb) are much eased by baths made of the leaves, and flowers of

this, and the kindred Ragworts.

A decoction of Groundsel serves as a famous application for healing

chapped hands. In Cornwall if the herb is to be used as an emetic

they strip it upwards, if for a purgative downwards. Lay by your

learned receipts, writes Culpeper, this herb alone shall do the deed

for you in all hot diseases, first safely, second speedily.