I was quite surprised to find Ragwort growing here. This is Horse country. There are lots of Horses in the fields and I meet riders every day. Ragwort is extremely poisonous to horses. The poisons contained accumulate in their bodies and cause liver damage and a slow painful death. There are not that many reported cases because Horses don’t usually eat it, they don’t like the taste but if it gets mixed up with their hay it can be fatal.
I have watched our fields being cut for silage and neighbours fields cut for hay. The meadows are full of many different species of wildflowers and very long grass, nobody could possibly check that there was no Ragwort in there.
Wikipedia tells us that a single plant can produce more than 2000 flowers over the growing season and 75,000 – 120,000 seeds and the meadows are cut before it flowers.
Unsurprisingly Horse owners usually pull Ragwort when they see it.
It is most commonly associated with the Cinnabar Moth which is totally dependent on Ragwort for it’s survival but there are at least thirty other species that are also dependent and ten of those are listed as Nationally Scarce or endangered. There are also about 150 other species that depend on Ragwort to some extent.
It really is an important plant to our ecology, we can’t do without all of those insects.
Ragwort is a member of the Daisy family (Asteraceae). Seedlings appear in the Autumn and by early Spring they have formed rosettes. Flowering usually starts in June and lasts right through to November.
It is beautiful, it is very important and it is dangerous.
Update July 17: Two days after taking these pictures I walked this path again and the plants had been pulled up.