The Oxford Ragwort


We are exploring fundamental processes in plant reproduction and evolution using genetics and genomics in collaboration with scientists at the Department of Biology, and from the Universities of Napoli and Bristol. Our research focuses on the adaptation of Senecio (ragworts) to different altitudes on their native Mount Etna. Senecio chrysanthemifolius and S. aethnensis grow at low and high altitudes on the volcano respectively, and form hybrids where they meet naturally at mid altitude. It was material from this hybrid zone that was grown in the Oxford Botanic Garden by Bobart the Younger in the early 1700s. Plants that later escaped from the Garden spread across the UK via the clinker beds of railway lines and, over the next few hundred years, diverged from the hybrids and their parents sufficiently to become recognised as a separate species, S. squalidus, the Oxford ragwort.