ORRIN MORRIS: Cottony groundsel not exclusive to granite outcroppings

COTTONY GROUNDSEL Senecio tomentosus

COTTONY GROUNDSEL Senecio tomentosus

As we anticipate the opportunities for worship this Sunday, consider the words of the Psalmist in Psalms 104:33-34, “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord” (KJV).

Did you know that there are an estimated 12,000 acres of granite outcrops in the Piedmont region of the U.S.? It is estimated that over 90 percent of that outcropping is in Georgia alone. Did you know that most of that occurs in just three counties: Dekalb, Rockdale and Walton?

Stone Mountain and Arabia Mountain, both in DeKalb, and Panola Mountain, a portion of which is in Rockdale, are nearby state parks and conservation areas that feature the outcroppings.

Scattered closer to our homes are unprotected areas that provide easy access to viewing unique wildflowers throughout the year. Some of the plants are present only in the depressions atop the granite: pool sprite (also known as snorklewort), diamorpha and sandwort. Others grow in the sandy soil that has accumulated on or adjacent to the outcrops: atamasca lily, early saxifrage, sundrops and the yellow daisy (also called Confederate daisy), to name a few.


Senecio tomentosus

Here we examine the cottony groundsel. It is selective about where it grows, so if you do not see it at a granite outcrop, check the soil under it.

Large colonies of this wildflower exist on and around the outcrops. Blooming occurs in late spring. The plant ranges from 1 to 2 feet high. The stem is thick and the leaves are easily identified by their cottony underside. The leaves attach at the base of the stem, have long petioles and stand erect, as pictured.

The 1-inch yellow blooms are very similar to those of the Southern ragwort. Cottony groundsel is in the aster family and thus has rays (petals) and a central disc, as illustrated.

The cottony groundsel is not exclusive to the granite outcrops. It may appear in sandy soil under which large boulders or layers of granite exist. I know of one place along Ga. Highway 20 North in Conyers where an outcrop was covered with soil about five years ago and the cottony groundsel has reappeared. However, the most common habitat for this wildflower is the broad area of Georgia known as the Coastal Plain.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.