Two new polyploid species of Senecio have originated in the British Isles in recent times following hybridization between native S. vulgaris (2n = 40) and introduced S. squalidus (2n = 20). One of these is the allohexaploid S. cambrensis (2n = 60), the other is the recombinant tetraploid S. eboracensis (2n = 40). We review what is known about when and how each species originated, and their reproductive isolation from parents due to high selfing rates. We also review evidence that suggests S. cambrensis may have undergone rapid genome evolution since its origin, and comment on the risks of extinction to each species due to chance factors operating during the early establishment phase. The discovery of both species soon after their origin provides an unparalleled opportunity to examine two different but related forms of speciation following hybridization between the same parent species. Further detailed study of the ecology and genomics of S. cambrensis and S. eboracensis will help improve our understanding of the process of polyploid speciation in plants. © 2004 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2004, 82, 467–474.