Golden Ragworts are attractive flowers, a bit like a yellow aster, that bloom in the middle spring, just after the tulips in your garden. The heart-shaped basal leaves and the pinnately lobed (rather fern-like) stem leaves are distinctive. They like a somewhat shady location; these were blooming in early May beside a wooded country lane west of Cranberry.
Gray (with help from J. M. Greenman) describes the genus and the species:
SENECIO [Tourn.] L. GROUNDSEL. RAGWORT. SQUAW-WEED. Revised Bt J. M. Greenman. Heads many-flowered; rays pistillate or none; involucre cylindrical to bellshaped, simple or with a few bractlets at the base, the bracts erect-connivent. Receptacle flat, naked. Pappus of numerous very soft and capillary bristles.— Ours herbs, with alternate leaves and solitary or eorymbed heads. Flowers chiefly yellow. (Name from senex, an old man, alluding to the hoariness of many species, or to the white hairs of the pappus.)
S. aureus L. (GOLDEN R. ) Stems erect from rather slender rootstocks, 3-8 dm. high, at first often lightly floccose-tomentose, soon glabrate; lower leaves long-petioled, ovate-rotund to slightly oblong, 1.5-8 cm. long, two thirds as broad, crenate-dentate; stem-leaves lyrate to laciniate-pinnatifid; the uppermost sessile, amplexicaul, often bract-like; inflorescence cymose-corymbose; heads radiate; rays yellow; achenes glabrous. — In wet meadows, moist thickets, and swamps, Nfd., s. to Va., w. to Wisc., Mo., and Ark. May-Aug.