Friday 19 April 2024


 The plant known as Groundsel can be spotted almost anywhere, in many countries around the world mostly on cultivated ground or like this patch below on the road edge.

It's one of those plants that everyone knows but I thought I could find out more to fill a blog post!

Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) belongs to the Asteraceae family which also includes dandelion, thistles and sunflower. It is called a 'winter annual' because the seeds germinate from late autumn through to early spring, and one of it's other names is  'old-man-in-the-spring'.
It's name comes from an Old English word grundeswilige meaning 'ground swallower' as it grows profusely wherever it gets a chance.

We used to pick it for feeding to the budgie and to rabbits many years ago but  it is poisonous to humans yet once used in medicine as a purgative and a diuretic.

In country folklore in the Fens it was thought it grew where witches had stopped for a pee and when it grew on a thatched roof it marked the spot where the witch had landed!

Of course Cecily Mary Barker had a Flower Fairy and his song for Groundsel.

The Song of the Groundsel Fairy

If dicky-birds should buy and sell
In tiny markets, I can tell
The way they'd spend their money.
They'd ask the price of cherries sweet, 
They'd choose the pinkest worms for meat
And common Groundsel for a treat,
Though you might think it funny.
Love me not, or love me well;
That's the way they'd buy and sell.

I'd forgotten we used to say 'dicky-birds' when talking to small children! 

Do you remember that way to entertain them "Two little dicky birds sitting on a wall, one named Peter one named Paul, fly away Peter, fly away Paul, come back Peter, come back Paul". With bits of sticky paper stuck on fingers with their names, hidden behind the back and reappearing with different fingers and then back with names again...................or is it just me?

Funny what writing a blog post made me remember.

Back Tomorrow


  1. I do remember the rhyme and I was just recently thinking about the nursery rhymes I remember. Do adults recite these to children nowadays?

  2. Your post today did bring back memories. My Mum had a couple of budgies over the years and she used to give them groundsel. I'm not sure I have seen any for a while, will have to keep a look out. Yes, two little dicky birds, I used to say that rhyme to my children and the older grandchildren, now in their 20s.

  3. Yes I remember the rhyme as well. Also used to tell stories to my brother with the two fingers. Nowadays two fingers mean something else!

  4. Yes, I still use that rhyme with the littles.

  5. Dicky birds. I can hear my mum saying that. We used to give Groundsel to our budgie too (Robbie he was called, and he was bright blue). I noticed Tam had Groundsel by her front door recently. Never knew it was used medicinally.

  6. I do remember Peter and Paul. How about, 'Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear ...' and 'Here's the church and here's the steeple ...' Anyone remember those?

  7. An aunt of ours used to play the two little dicky birds game with my brother, he was so fascinated by it and still remembers it, he often recalls it, he is 67 now!

  8. When we were children we used to pull up groundsel to feed to our hens. We thought it a great game and I imagine my father was pleased to get the garden weeded and the chickens fed at the same time.

  9. Yes, we always called them 'dicky birds' when we were young in Manchester. Funnily enough when me and my friend got married my first husband was called Peter and hers was called Paul ... yes we used to sing the rhyme all the time. :-)

  10. I remember the rhymes very well. I also recall my Mother singing a nursery rhyme to the little boy next door who wouldn't have an afternoon nap to encourage him to sleep (to give his poor Mother a rest) called Black Hen. I can't remember all of the words unfortunately. Lovely memories brought to mind.

  11. Ah yes Dicky Birds, moo cows, baa lambs ,chooks etc
    Interesting facts about groundsel - thank you
    Alison in Wales x

  12. Yes I have sung the about the little dicky birds many times both with my daughter and with many infant classes as a teacher. Catriona

  13. Like others, I remember the nursery rhymes.. We read them so many times we knew them by heart. I wonder if children learn nursery rhymes today?

  14. I taught it to my younger granddaughter when I was looking after her before Christmas. Then she repeatedly asked her mum to sing "DickyBirds" - without success. Eventually they realised it was all Grandma's fault, and I had to demonstrate it on WhatsApp. Also "Here's the Church, here's the steeple" and "Round and round the garden" and "Tommy Thumb where are you"?" and "Wind the bobbin up"...who needs TV when you have Grandmas with an infinite supply of songs and rhymes?

  15. What we call groundsel looks nothing like yours or the Flower Fairy, I must have it wrong. I've been researching weeds and beach growth for my nature watercolor diary. Today's was what we called "Hen Crest/ Cress", correct name seems to be hen bit or hen bitterroot. Then I will draw the early flowering dune shrub, here called dune hawthorn but is probably shadblow or early name ''service bush'' [when the shadblow bloomed in early Colonial New England, the people knew the ground was unfrozen enough to bury their winter dead. A sad old saying....but a pretty sight on the brown marsh verges.]

  16. Thank you to everyone for comments above - apologies for not replying.

  17. With all my children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildrenn. Not forgetting all the other children I have known or looked after. Two little dicky birds has been part of my repertoire. Some of them looked amazed, and some looked worried. However, they come back usually from behind the ears of the child in question. Thank you for reminding me. Love Andie xxx

  18. My Dad's ancestors came from England, and he would chant a rhyme that went, "Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill, one named Jack and the other named Jill. Fly away, Jack. Fly away Jill. Come back Jack. Come back Jill." He'd put ballpoint pen ink on his index fingers and we would be so confused about where the marks on his fingers went.
    We did "Here's the church and here's the steeple, Open the doors and see all the people. Close the doors and hear them pray, open the doors and they all run away." That last part I couldn't understand, as no one ran away after our church meetings. They'd all stand around talking for at least half an hour.

  19. I so remember that rhyme. Mom used to put a little bit of paper on her nails for the dickie birds and we always wondered where they flew away to.

    God bless.

  20. Thanks Sue for this post - I didn't ever know the name for this common plant (weed), and now I do! Dicky birds is something I did with my children - lovely! Gen