RAGWORT – FRIEND OR FOE?

The RHS identifies Ragwort as: ‘a tall erect plant to 90cm (3ft) bearing large flat-topped clusters of yellow daisy-like flowers from July to October. It has finely divided leaves with a basal rosette of deeply-cut, toothed leaves. The plant is usually a biennial (living only two years and flowering in its second year) but damage to the base of the plant can make the plant behave like a perennial (living indefinitely), as new rosettes are formed.’

There are two types of Ragwort – one native and one non-native - and you can read more about this here, where you can also find out more about insects that specialise on plants like ragwort and groundsel, that contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, including our own Cinnabar Moth, found here on the Common.

As with any plant – ‘a weed is simply a plant in the wrong place’.  Most of us are familiar with Ragwort’s association with livestock poisoning – and rightly so…. in areas where livestock are present.

However, in areas where this is not the case, and hay is not used as livestock feed, such as here on Barnes Common, a presence of a certain amount of Ragwort is to be welcomed!

Buglife notes ‘that at least 30 insect species (and 14 fungi species) are entirely reliant on Ragwort, and about a third of the insects are scarce or rare. Ragwort is also an important nectar source for hundreds of species of butterflies, bees, moths, flies and other invertebrates, helping to support populations in the UK countryside’, including the Small Copper, and also helping to support populations of higher species, including birds and bats.

Here on the Common, it really is best left alone. Ragwort is a toxic plant and like many plants, can cause irritation when in contact with skin or through inhaling pollen. Instead, please do take the time to enjoy the wildlife that can be found amongst it!

IT IS FOR THESE REASONS THAT WE DO NOT LOOK TO REMOVE RAGWORT FROM THE COMMON AND STRONGLY ADVISE AGAINST ANY PULLING OR PICKING OF THIS PLANT FROM ANYWHERE ON THE COMMON.

There are many articles about Ragwort, and just one has been sourced above.  One thing is certain, be you butterfly enthusiast or horse lover, there are always opinions about the pros and cons of this plant and its contentious reputation!

December 2017