Purple-haired groundsel – Tephroseris frigida

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Alaska Wildflowers | Yellow

The yellow flower of the purple-haired groundsel (Tephroseris frigida) in the interior of Alaska.

Purple-haired groundsel

Tephroseris frigida

Common Names

arctic butterweed
arctic groundsel
dark purple groundsel
purple-haired groundsel


Senecio frigidus
Senecio atropurpureus ssp. frigidus
Tephroseris atropurpurea ssp. frigida
Senecio atropurpureus var. ulmeri



Genus: Tephroseris
Family: Asteraceae
Order: Asterales
full classification

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Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb

Identification and Information

Purple-haired groundsel is a yellow-flowering perennial herb that grows from a fibrous rhizome (no caudex present). The aerial stems are erect and solitary and often covered in short, dense purple or brown hairs.

The plant has both basal and cauline leaves that may or may not have pedicels, although the basal leaves often wither before flowering. The basal leaf blades are entire, ovate, oblanceolate, or egg-shaped, and are 1-11 cm long. The basal leaves are spreading while the leaves on the stem are smaller and often appressed (growing more up against the stem). The leaves will often have a moderately dense, fine white wool.

The flowering stems are solitary and the inflorescence is a solitary head with both ray and disk florets (although the ray florets develop later). The outer involucral bract is green with a red tinge on the edges, especially as the flower matures. The bract is 7-12 mm tall, also has purple hairs like the stem, and is lance-oblong.

The flowers are yellow and radially symmetric. When present, there are 7-14 (up to 21) ray florets (which may not be present, especially early in the season), that are most often found in numbers of 8, 13, or 21. There are 30-50 smaller disk florets with 5 lobes. The flowers have 5 yellow stamens with yellow anthers and an inferior ovary with 2 styles.

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For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

There are no known uses of Tephroseris frigida or other species in the Tephroseris genus. However, there is a long list of traditional uses of other groundsels, particularly in the Senecio genus, everything from external use for infected sores, as a laxative, to treatment for a “cold” in the kidneys. There are no scientific studies to back up any medicinal use, and many groundsels are known to be poisonous to people and animals, containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids that affect both the liver and nervous system.

Unlimited Photo Storage

Distribution and Habitat

Tephroseris frigida is native to Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, and Siberia.

The plant grows in wet soils and can be found in moist meadows, on the margins of lakes and ponds, marshes, or along streams as well as in peaty tundra.


RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
   SubkingdomViridiplantae (green plants)
      InfrakingdomStreptophyta (land plants)
            DivisionTracheophyta (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
               SubdivisionSpermatophytina (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
                           FamilyAsteraceae (sunflowers, tournesols)
                              GenusTephroseris (groundsel)
                                 SpeciesTephroseris frigida (purple-flowered groundsel)

References and Further Reading

Classification and Taxonomy

T. frigida (Richardson) Holub Taxonomic Serial No.: 780532, ITIS Database

T. atropurpurea (Ledeb.) Holub ssp. frigida (Richardson) Á. Löve & D. Löve, USDA Database

Uses and Toxicity

search string: senecio, Native American Ethnobotany Database

search string: groundsel, Native American Ethnobotany Database

Groundsels and Livestock Poisoning, New Mexico State University Livestock & Range Publications

Map and Distribution

T. frigida (Richards.) Holub Published in: Holub. In: Folia Geobot. Phytotax., 8(2): 173. (1973)., GBIF Database

Description and Information

T. frigida (Richardson) Holub, Folia Geobot. Phytotax. 8: 173. 1973., Flora of North America

T. frigida (Richardson) Holub. purple-haired groundsel, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

T. frigida (Richardson) Holub Asteraceae (Compositae), Daisy family. Published in Folia Geobot. Phytotax. 8, 2: 173. 1973., Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

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