Ragwort – Senecio jacobaea

A common member of the Daisy family, Asteraceae.

Probably the most contentious plant in the Parish, or perhaps a close second to Bracken. Ragwort is a British native plant that is well known to be toxic to Mammals, that’s why it is often seen standing tall when all around is grazed within inch or so of the soil. Cows, Horses and Donkeys know that they should not eat it, it is bitter to taste and smells bad too. When restricted in a field or paddock Horses will eat Ragwort if they are almost starving because there is no grass but that is never the case on the open ‘Forest’.

Your Parish Council has a policy to remove by pulling all Ragwort from open ‘greens,’ and verges owned by the Council. This is done annually and is a measure to avoid the spread of seeds to cultivated land and also to enhance the visual appearance of open areas such as Gorley Green and the Green by the Alice Lisle. Some residents have expressed a well founded view that ragwort is most beneficial to some wildlife, particularly insects and so we try just to concentrate on the grazing areas leaving inaccessible spots for conservation purposes.

Being mindful of the value of Ragwort to many species of insect and indirectly supporting other wildlife the Council, in conjunction with the National Trust is allowing Ragwort to grow without major control in the Furzehill area. In 2016 more than 1000 Cinnabar moth caterpillars were counted using Ragwort in this area as a food plant.

Thanks are due to Martin Bennett for contributing the photos below which show just a few of the insects that feed on Ragwort.

A number of plants look like Ragwort, one of them is a very special plant in our area, the Small Fleabane….photos of that and more information to follow.