Highlands Biological Station buildings remain closed to visitors with the exception of limited visitor hours for the Nature Center.  HBS Botanical Garden trails remain open, and in accordance with University policy masks and physical distancing are required on the HBS campus.  Highlands Biological Station currently plans to offer academic and public programming in summer 2021, observing University mandated Covid-19 safety protocols.  For the safety of the HBS summer community, before being permitted to work or study at HBS prospective summer students, teaching faculty, and researchers must provide documentation of (1) having received a Covid-19 vaccine or (2) a negative Covid-19 test taken within 3 days of planned arrival.  Please see the HBS website for full summer 2021 Covid-19 safety policies and procedures, and bear in mind that University policy and HBS program plans are subject to change in light of developments with the pandemic this spring. 

Packera aurea

Golden Ragwort


Sunflower Family

Golden ragwort is one of about 64 species in the genus Packera, named in honor of Canadian botanist John G. Packer.  For many years all ragworts were placed in the large genus Senecio, though even in the 19th century Asa Gray recognized that the North American species were rather different from Senecio elsewhere in the world, dubbing them the “aureoid” or golden senecios.  Modern genetic analysis bears Gray out.

Packera aurea is aureoid indeed with its brilliant yellow cluster of daisy-like flowers.  It thrives in moist, shady conditions, and can spread rapidly.  Note its distinctive leaves: the basal ones are large and oval, but those of the flowering stem are alternate and lacy-cut.  You won’t see many insects nibbling on them, however: like many Packera and Senecio, this species is packed full of toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. While this plant has a long history of medicinal use, it is best avoided as these potent alkaloids can cause serious liver damage.