Oxford ragwort gets its name from the Oxford Botanic Gardens where plants were first grown in the 1700s. They had been collected from Mount Etna on the Island of Sicily where they were found growing on the lava fields. By1794 the plant was to be found on the city walls having escaped from its original source. With the advent of the railways Oxford Ragwort, finding the clinker beds of the tracks similar to its original volcanic habitat spread around the country. Oxford Ragwort can now be found all over the UK and is often to be found growing in the gaps in paving stones.
Recent research (1) has found that Oxford Ragwort (Senecio squalidus) is actually of hybrid origin. Its parents are two other species of Ragwort, Senecio aethnensis and Senecio chrysanthemifolius which are both only found on Sicily. It appears that the occur at different heights on the mountain and in between these points on the mountain the hybrid occurs. It is this Ragwort that was originally taken to Oxford.
Common ragwort about which this site is written is a native plant which should not be confused with this species.
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(1) Evolution Vol 59, Issue 12 (December 2005) pp. 2533–254 James. J.K. and Abbot R.J Recent, allopatric, homoploid hybrid speciation: The origin of Senecio squalidus (Asteraceae) in the British Isles from a hybrid zone on Mount Etna, Sicily