Butterweed (Cressleaf Groundsel): The Beauty and Dangers

Last Updated on May 8, 2023 by Derek

Getting to Know Butterweed (Cressleaf Groundsel)

Butterweed, also known as cressleaf groundsel, is a common weed that can be found growing in fields, ditches, and along roadsides throughout the United States.

two yellow Butterweed flowers

Despite being considered an invasive species by some, it has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb and nutrient-rich food source. Understanding butterweed is important for several reasons.

First and foremost, it can help us identify the plant and distinguish it from other similar-looking weeds. This knowledge is especially important for farmers and gardeners who want to protect their crops from potential infestations.

Additionally, learning about the health benefits of butterweed can inspire individuals to incorporate this plant into their diet or even use it as a natural remedy for various ailments. Butterweed is a rich source of vitamins A and C, which are essential for maintaining healthy skin and immune function.

Ohio Univ.

Yellow Butterweed Flower

It also contains antioxidants that can help prevent damage to cells caused by free radicals. Understanding the potential risks associated with exposure to butterweed is crucial in order to avoid any negative health effects.

While it is generally safe when consumed in moderate amounts, large doses of butterweed can be toxic and may cause liver damage or other serious health problems. Learning about butterweed (cressleaf groundsel) is important for identifying this common weed and its uses in medicine and nutrition while being aware of its possible dangers when consumed excessively.

Butterweed Growing Conditions
Plant Common Name Scientific Name US Growing Zone Hardy/Perennial Soil Type Sunshine Requirements Water Needs
Butterweed Senecio glabellus 3-8 Perennial Well-draining, moist soil Full sun to partial shade Regular watering, moderate drought tolerance

Physical Characteristics

Appearance and Size

Butterweed (Cressleaf Groundsel) is a part of the Asteraceae family, and as such it has a very distinct appearance. Its leaves are long, narrow, and serrated along the edges. The plant grows to a height of about 3 feet tall, with yellow flowers blooming at the top of each stem.

butterweed close up showing yellow flowers and serrated edged leaves

These flowers have a unique shape – they resemble small daisies with elongated petals. Butterweed (Cressleaf Groundsel) may be easily confused with common dandelions or other yellow-flowering weeds found in fields.

Habitat and Distribution

Butterweed (Senecio glabellus) is found throughout the central and eastern regions of the United States, from Texas to Florida in the south and as far north as the Great Lakes region.

Butterweed (Cressleaf Groundsel) thrives in damp environments such as marshy fields and along riverbanks. This plant can be found throughout North America, from Canada down to Mexico. It is also common in Europe and Asia where it was introduced as an ornamental plant.

Life Cycle

Butterweed (Cressleaf Groundsel) is an annual plant that grows for one season before dying off. It starts as a small seedling that germinates in early spring when conditions are favorable for growth – usually around March or April depending on location and climate zone.

As the plant matures, it develops multiple stems that grow upwards towards the sun, eventually reaching their maximum height around June or July. At this point, yellow flowers begin to appear at the tips of each stem which gradually transform into small seeds by late summer or early fall before dying back completely once winter sets in.

Uses and Benefits

Ecological Significance: A Valuable Addition to Ecosystems

Butterweed (Cressleaf Groundsel) plays a vital role in the ecosystem by providing food and shelter to insects like bees and butterflies that pollinate plants necessary for agriculture. The plant is also an essential source of food for birds that rely on seeds as part of their diet.

Additionally, Butterweed helps prevent soil erosion by providing ground cover in areas where topsoil has been damaged or removed due to human activities such as logging or mining. Therefore it’s important we protect this wild herb from extinction so that our ecosystems can continue functioning optimally

Toxicity and Risks

Butterweed, also known as Cressleaf Groundsel, has a complicated relationship with humans and animals alike. While the plant has historically been used for medicinal purposes, it’s important to note that the plant is highly toxic and can cause serious health issues when ingested in large amounts. It’s essential to be aware of the potential risks associated with this plant, particularly when handling or coming into contact with it.

Chemical Composition

Butterweed contains several toxic compounds that are harmful to humans and animals. The primary toxin found in Butterweed is pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which can cause liver damage and even cancer in people who ingest them over time. Additionally, Butterweed contains terpenes, which can cause skin irritation and respiratory issues when exposed to them directly.

Health Risks for Humans and Animals

Humans who consume Butterweed or come into contact with it directly are at risk of developing serious health issues such as liver damage or cancer. Ingesting large amounts of PAs over time can lead to liver failure or even death. Animals such as cattle are particularly susceptible to poisoning from eating Butterweed as their digestive systems cannot break down the toxins present in the plant effectively.

Harmful Compounds in Butterweed and Their Effects on Human Health
Compound Effect on Human Health
Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids Liver damage and potentially cancer
Senecionine Liver damage
Seneciphylline Liver damage
Senecivernine Liver damage
Senecionine N-oxide Liver damage

Control Methods

Since Butterweed is highly toxic and poses a significant risk to human health, it should be removed from areas where people may come into contact with it frequently. Control methods include chemical herbicides or manual removal of the plants by hand using protective equipment such as gloves.

It’s important not to burn or compost Butterweed as this can spread its seeds further and increase its presence in an area. Ultimately, controlling the spread of this plant requires vigilance on behalf of both individuals and larger organizations tasked with managing natural areas where Butterweed may be present.

Interesting Facts

Butterweed (Cressleaf Groundsel) is not just a pretty wildflower that grows along roadsides and fields. It has a rich history of traditional uses and folklore stories that have been passed down through generations. Here are some interesting facts about this little yellow flower.

Historical uses

Native American tribes used Butterweed for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. It was often brewed into a tea to treat various ailments, such as coughs, colds, fever, and rheumatism.

The plant’s smoke was also believed to have cleansing properties. Early European settlers in America also used Butterweed for medicinal purposes, including as a treatment for respiratory issues.

Folklore and myths

There are many intriguing folklore stories about Butterweed, especially among Native American tribes. One story tells of a young warrior who was lost in the woods and found the plant’s leaves covered with dewdrops that sparkled like diamonds in the sunlight. He believed it to be a sign from his ancestors that he would find his way home safely.

Another myth claims that Butterweed is linked to fairies or other supernatural creatures because of its delicate flowers and ability to grow almost anywhere. Some people even believe that if you pick Butterweed, you could anger these creatures or bring bad luck upon yourself.

Uncommon uses

Apart from traditional medicinal uses and folklore stories, there are some unusual ways people have used Butterweed over time. For example, during World War II when coffee was scarce, some people roasted the plant’s seeds as a substitute for coffee. In ancient times, Romans would use the plant’s flowers to make yellow dye for their clothing.

In modern times, many beekeepers appreciate Butterweed because it produces large amounts of nectar for bees during the late summer months when other sources may be scarce. This makes the plant an important part of the ecosystem and helps support local honey production.

Overall, these interesting facts about Butterweed demonstrate the plant’s many uses and cultural significance throughout history. While it may just look like a simple yellow wildflower to some, its beauty and value go far beyond its appearance.


Butterweed or Cressleaf Groundsel is a fascinating plant with a rich history and many uses. Its striking appearance and preference for wet habitats make it easily recognizable in the wild, but its toxicity means that it should be treated with caution. As we have seen, Butterweed (Cressleaf Groundsel) has both medicinal and culinary uses.

Traditional healers have used this plant to treat various ailments, such as coughs and skin conditions. In the kitchen, the young leaves can be added to salads or cooked like spinach.

Butterweed (Cressleaf Groundsel) also plays an important ecological role by providing food for insects and other wildlife. Its bright yellow flowers are especially attractive to bees and butterflies.

Despite its many benefits, caution must be taken when handling this plant as it can be toxic to humans and livestock if ingested in large quantities. Control methods include hand-pulling or chemical treatments.

Butterweed (Cressleaf Groundsel) is a unique plant that deserves our attention and respect. Whether you’re a nature lover or simply curious about the world around us, this plant is sure to pique your interest with its beauty and complexity.

Yellow Rocket Yellow Flowers

Yellow flowers in farmer’s fields

FAQ relating to Butterweed

Q: What is Butterweed?

A: Butterweed is a common name for several plant species in the genus Senecio, native to North America.

Q: Is Butterweed poisonous?

A: Yes, Butterweed contains toxic compounds that can be harmful to humans and animals if ingested in large amounts.

Q: How can I control Butterweed in my garden?

A: Butterweed can be controlled by hand-pulling or using herbicides. However, be careful when using herbicides as they can also harm other plants.

Q: Can Butterweed be used for medicinal purposes?

A: No, Butterweed is not commonly used for medicinal purposes due to its toxic properties.

Q: Is it safe to eat Butterweed?

A: No, Butterweed is not safe to eat due to its toxic compounds.

Q: Does Butterweed have any benefits for wildlife?

A: Butterweed can be a food source for some wildlife species, such as butterflies, but it can also be harmful to livestock if ingested in large amounts.

Q: Is Butterweed considered an invasive species?

A: Yes, Butterweed is considered an invasive species in some areas and can quickly spread and outcompete native plants.

Follow Me
DB Marketing and SEO, Casa de Serrabodes (Office 2), CP827, Mexhilhoeira Grande, Faro, Portugal – Bus. Reg: 9996004777432 – Tel: +351308801613