Small’s ragwort, Packera anonyma, is native to the eastern United States and wonderful in the meadow garden.
Small’s ragwort can be found as far north as New York and as far west as Arkansas. You may find this species identified with the genus/species names Senecio smallii or Senecio anonymous. Packera anonyma also has the common name ‘southern ragwort’.
It’s a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae), whose flowers many of us strongly associate with fall. Small’s ragwort blooms in spring, however.
If you have a meadow, prairie, or xeric garden, Small’s ragwort will fit right in.
Packera anonyma is an easy to grow native perennial that flowers in golden waves across the landscape. They say Small’s ragwort grows 12″ tall, but I have seen it larger, perhaps to 18″. Packera anonyma grows just fine in areas that are not coddled. It bears strong consideration for inclusion in gardens where the soil is barren and maybe a little dry. Water needs are minimal once established.
Natural habitat is in places that are sunny, open, and dry. Disturbed areas, roadsides, and the occasional dry ditch are home to Small’s ragwort. If you leave the area alone, Packera anonyma will spread readily. This is an important point, as this native perennial shows off best massed.
It’s the waves created by an expanse of Small’s ragwort that impresses up close and from a distance.
If I saw a couple of Small’s ragwort planted in the garden, I would barely notice. The flowers are tiny, maybe 1/2″ across at most. They bloom in tightly packed clusters, creating an effect through sheer numbers.
Genus and Species name changes:
It was originally given the genus and species names of Senecio anonymous in 1861 by Dr. A.K. Wood, the scientist now acknowledged as the person who discovered the species.
The common name designation is in honor of John Kunkel Small, a noted botanist of the early 20th century. Botanist Nathaniel L. Britton wanted to honor Small by naming the ragwort ‘Senecio smallii’ but his proposal in 1890 was too late (Austin, Daniel F., Florida Ethnobotany. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2004. Retrieved from http://books.google.com). ‘Senecio anonymous’ had already been assigned as genus/species names.
Small is still honored in the common name designation: ‘Small’s ragwort’. All of this botanical confusion became a little more confusing when it was reclassified into the genus Packera.