Cressleaf Groundsel (Packera glabella)

Every spring we receive several calls and e-mails about a certain 3-foot tall weed with yellow flowers. Cressleaf groundsel will once again be in full bloom across the entire state of Indiana in many no-till fields and pastures. This article is meant to provide information on the biology and life cycle of cressleaf groundsel, as well as how to control it in fields and pastures.

Biology and Identification

Cressleaf Groundsel is a winter annual weed that has been becoming more prevalent in Indiana pastures and agronomic crop ground over the past couple of years. The small seeds produced by this weed allow it to thrive in reduced and no-till systems as well as poorly established pastures. Cool and wet springs of the past couple of years have also favored cressleaf groundsel, as it is a weed that prefers moist soils and typically struggles in hot and dry weather.

Much like most winter annual weeds, cressleaf groundsel emerges as a rosette in the fall then bolts, flowers, and produces seed in the spring. Basal rosette leaves are deep pinnate serrations with roundly lobed leaf margins. Leaves are typically 2 to 10 inches in length (Britton and Brown 1970). Bolting stems are hollow and can reach up to three feet in height with inflorescences that contain six to twelve yellow ray flowers that are often compared to the flowers of common dandelion. When looking for cressleaf groundsel in older weed id or taxonomic guides be aware that it has traditionally been placed in the Senecio genus and only recently was placed into the Packera genus.


Figure 1. Cressleaf groundsel rosette.

Figure 1. Cressleaf groundsel rosette.


Figure 2. Bolted cressleaf groundsel.

Figure 2. Bolted cressleaf groundsel.


Figure 3. Cressleaf groundsel flower cluster.

Figure 3. Cressleaf groundsel flower cluster.


Toxic Properties

The competitiveness of cressleaf groundsel with agronomic crops has not been researched, though its presence as a winter annual in no-till fields will have the same implications of slowing soil warming and drying as other winter annual weeds. The presence of this weed in pastures and hay fields should be of more concern as it does contain toxic properties when ingested by livestock. Leaves, flowers, and seeds of cressleaf groundsel contain alkaloids that will cause liver damage in livestock that is termed seneciosis and typically occurs on a chronic level (Kingsbury 1964). Symptoms of seneciosis are loss of appetite, sluggish depressed behavioral patterns, and in extreme cases aimless walking without regard to fences or structures. Although cressleaf groundsel is not as toxic as many of its relatives in the Packera genus, livestock producers encountering this weed in pastures or hay should take steps to avoid prolonged ingestion by animals.


Herbicide applications to control of cressleaf groundsel are most effective when applied to plants in the rosette stage, bolting plants are very difficult to control with herbicides. Infestations in pastures can be controlled with 2,4-D or a combination of 2,4-D and dicamba applied to rosettes in the fall or early spring prior to bolting (Nice 2008). Producers should be aware that applications of these herbicides will also kill favorable broadleaves that are present in pastures.

Control recommendations for cressleaf groundsel in no-till agronomic crop fields has typically been to apply 2,4-D @ 1 qt/A to actively growing rosettes in the fall. Research at University of Illinois (Lake and Hager 2009) has shown that fall or spring applications to 2-8 inch diameter rosettes with the following herbicides and rates can achieve 94% or greater control of cressleaf groundsel:

1 oz/A Canopy EX (chlorimuron + rimsulfuron)
1-2 qt/A glyphosate (4lb ai formulation)
1-2 qt/A glyphosate + 1-2 pt 2,4-D (4 lb ai formulation)
3 pt Extreme (glyphosate + Pursuit)

In general the treatments applied in the fall resulted in greater biomass reduction of cressleaf groundsel, although all treatments and timings prevented plants from producing seed.


Figure 4. Fall application control of cressleaf groundsel compared to no fall application.

Figure 4. Fall application control of cressleaf groundsel compared to no fall application.


Britton, N. and A. Brown. 1970. An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada. Volume 3. Dover Publications, Inc., New York. Pp 540-544.

Kingsbury K.M. 1964. Poisonous Plants of the United States and Canada. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J. pp 425-435

Lake, J.T. and A.G. Hager. 2009. Herbicide Selection and Application Timing for Control of Cressleaf Groundsel (Packera glabella). Weed Technol. 23:221-224

Nice, G. 2008. Guide to Toxic Plants and Forages. Purdue Extension Publication WS-37

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