Synonyms:(Scotch) Grundy Swallow, Ground Glutton. (Norfolk) Simson, Sention.
Groundsel is a perennial herb, similar in appearance to Ragwort, but with no visible rays to the flower heads. Groundsel flowers all year round and is found on disturbed ground throughout the country.
The name of groundsel is from the Anglo-Saxon groundswellge meaning “ground-swallower” referring to the rapid way the weed spreads. This is also indicated in the regional names Grundy Swallow (Scotch) and Ground Glutton. The generic name is from the Lating Senex meaning “old man” and referring to the white-downy seed heads which appear in profusion after flowering has finished.
According to T. F. Thiselton-Dyer, Groundsel was used by Highland women to counteract the Evil Eye and was thought to be one of the herbs that formed the Virgins bed with thyme and woodruff.
According to Linnaeus, goats and swine eat the plant freely, cows are not partial and sheep and horses do not touch it. However it is most popular with birds and even up to the 1950’s it was popular fodder for canaries kept as pets.
Groundsel is a diuretic and purgatorive. It was used in poultices and in weak solutions as an emetic. The immediately dug root was a cure for headaches if smelled and the plant steeped in boiling water is a remedy for chapped hands.
In the UK farriers gave Groundsel to horses as a cure for bot-worms, and in Germany it was said to be employed as a popular vermifuge for children.