Sweet-scented Indian Plantain

Senecio suaveolens (Linnaeus) Elliot

Hasteola suaveolens
Merel Black

Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
Asteraceae (Aster Family)
State Protection
Listed as Endangered by New York State: in imminent danger of extirpation in New York. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Apparently Secure globally - Uncommon in the world but not rare; usually widespread, but may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.


Did you know?

The genus name means spear-shaped and refers to the shape of the leaves. The species name means sweet-smelling but there are no reports of how sweet it is or what the fragrance smells like (Sharp 2000).

State Ranking Justification

There are four verified occurrences and fifteen historical occurrences.

Short-term Trends

The short term trend appears positive with the discovery of two new populations in 2015. However, the lack of revisits to the other sites considered extant precludes confirmation of this trend.

Long-term Trends

The long term trend has been one of apparent significant decline with five of nineteen populations verified since the late 1980's. Of these unfortunately none of the sites include more than one survey with an assessment of plant numbers so within site comparisons can not be made.Two additional populations were surveyed for but not found and the remaining twelve populations include one extirpated site and eleven historical records. None of the historical populations have been resurveyed so additional populations may still occur.

Conservation and Management


Development or land use conversion of floodplain shrub and forest habitats are threats. The alteration of flood regimes along rivers where the species occurs could result in elimination of the natural range of variation of the scouring and flooding events apparently required for seed germination. Deer over-browsing may be a threat especially to smaller populations (New England Wild Flower Society 2000). The permanent flooding from the creation of the Allegheny Reservior has extirpated a population.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Monitor and control populations of competing invasive exotic plants at occupied sites. Monitoring of the level of deer browse is desirable as overbrowse has been documented elsewhere in this plant's range. Maintain the natural range of variability in flood regimes along creek and river floodplain habitats.

Research Needs

Studies on the light requirements associated with vigorous reproduction and population persistence would be helpful to development of an understanding of population dynamics of this plant in New York. The collection of data on flood frequency and the elevation of the occupied sites above the neighboring river and creek channels may aid in better understanding the realized niche of this species in the state.



In New York, Hasteola suaveolens has been found primarily on alluvial soils in bottomland habitats. This plant has been found on the banks of rivers and oxbows in bottomland woods, on islands in rivers, in a swampy thicket bordering a creek and a historical population was known from the shore of a bay on Lake Ontario (New York Natural Heritage 2015). Riverbanks and moist low ground (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Woods, thickets, clearings (Fernald 1950).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Floodplain forest (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on mineral soils on low terraces of river floodplains and river deltas. These sites are characterized by their flood regime; low areas are annually flooded in spring, and high areas are flooded irregularly.
  • Shrub swamp (guide)
    An inland wetland dominated by tall shrubs that occurs along the shore of a lake or river, in a wet depression or valley not associated with lakes, or as a transition zone between a marsh, fen, or bog and a swamp or upland community. Shrub swamps are very common and quite variable.

Associated Species

  • Acer negundo
  • Acer saccharinum (silver maple)
  • Ageratina altissima
  • Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
  • Carex spp.
  • Carya cordiformis (bitternut hickory)
  • Cornus amomum
  • Crataegus spp.
  • Eutrochium maculatum
  • Fraxinus pennsylvanica (green ash)
  • Geum canadense (white avens)
  • Impatiens capensis (spotted jewelweed, spotted touch-me-not)
  • Lilium canadense (Canada lily)
  • Salix fragilis
  • Staphylea trifolia (bladdernut)


New York State Distribution

Populations are scattered in south central and western New York. New York is at the northeastern limit of this species' range.

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Sweet-scented Indian-plantain is a robust, leafy unbranched perennial herb that grows up to 1.5 meters tall. Its stems are hairless (glabrous), typically longitudinally grooved or lined and only occasionally round. The leaves are alternate, sharply toothed and often secondarily lobed, with long petioles that on lower leaves often exceed the length of the leaf. For these leaves, the total combined length ranges from 20 to 40 cm.. Along the middle and lower portions of the stem and on the basal rosette present in the early spring, the leaves become distinctively, strongly arrow shaped. The flowers are borne on round, more or less flat-topped (corymbiform) heads with 18-55 florets of yellowish-white, white or rarely pinkish petals (corollas) 8-9(-10.5) mm in length. The flower heads are subtended by (10-)12-14(-17) bracts (phyllaries). There are 4-9+ (typically awl-shaped, rarely leaf-like) bractlets (calyculi) encircling the whorled bracts (involucres) that form a vase-like or inverted cone shaped enclosure at the base of the inflorescence. The one-seeded fruits are dry, pale green to light brown and do not split at maturity.The tips have 6 to 7 mm long, spreading bristly hairs (pappi) at their tip (FNA 2006).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

For positive identification a mature plant with the entire stem, leaves and with intact flowers or fruits present is ideal.

Similar Species

No other Hasteola species occurs in New York or the northeastern U. S. A related species, Arnoglossum atriplicifolium can appear similar to H. suaveolens. It can be differentiated by the small number of florets, five, comprising its infloresence and the shape of the middle, lower and basal stem leaves. A. atriplicifolium's leaves have egg or kidney-shaped blades with shallowly lobed or symmetrically toothed (dentate) margins. In contrast, H suaveolens has many florets per inflorescence (18 to 55) and distinctly triangular arrowhead shaped (hastate) middle lower stem and basal leaf blades with pronounced triangular basal lobes.

Best Time to See

Due to its tall stature and distinct leaf shape, Sweet-scented Indian-plantain is conspicuous throughout the summer and early fall. It typically flowers from mid-July to mid-August. Fruits are typically present beginning in mid-August and persist until the first frost.

  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Sweet-scented Indian Plantain flowering and fruiting in New York.

Sweet-scented Indian Plantain Images


Sweet-scented Indian Plantain
Senecio suaveolens (Linnaeus) Elliot

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
        • Order Asterales
          • Family Asteraceae (Aster Family)


  • Cacalia suaveolens L.
  • Hasteola suaveolens (L.) Pojark.
  • Synosma suaveolens (L.) Raf. ex Britt.

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Anderson, L.C. 2006. Hasteola Rafinesque Pages 610 - 611 in Flora of North America Committee (editors). 2006. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 20. Magnoliophyta: Asteridae (in part): Asteraceae, part 2. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxvi + 723 pp.

Other References

Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Mitchell, Richard S. and Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. Contributions to a Flora of New York State. Checklist IV. Bulletin No. 490. New York State Museum. Albany, NY. 400 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/, Albany, New York

Zaremba, Robert E. 1991. Corrections to phenology list of April 9, 1991.


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: January 7, 2016

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Senecio suaveolens. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/sweet-scented-indian-plantain/. Accessed May 26, 2024.