Common Ragwort is widespread throughout the UK and can be found on wasteland, development land, roadside verges, railway land, amenity land, conservation areas, set-aside, woodland and grazing land commonly flowering in August. The tall nodding heads of yellow flowers are composed of yellow disc and ray flowers which support over thirty species of invertebrates, some totally dependent on Common Ragwort as a food source.
The Weeds Act of 1959 provides for orders for the control of Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea, L.), this was updated by the Ragwort Control Act of 2003. The act states:
Therefore it is incumbent upon landowners to know how best to control Common Ragwort.
Common Ragwort is an erect plant usually 30-100cm high, stems are tough and often tinged red/purple near the base. Ragwort is normally a biennial producing a rosette of basal leaves in the first year followed by flower stems in the second year. Flowering is between June and October after which the plant dies. However, if it is cut down to the ground during the second year it can continue to regrow in a third year utilizing energy resources in its deep tap root.
Common Ragwort can be a problem for livestock particularly horses. UK government figures for 2005 show a total number of 13 deaths and further figures from the same laboratories in the same source list 10 deaths between 2005 and 2010. One set of figures from a UK Government study for a period in the 1980s and 1990s in cattle shows figures in the 10-20 or to deaths a year range. Whilst the plant is growing, livestock will graze around it however they are unable to detect it once it has been dried in hay or preserved in silage and this is when most incidences of poisoning occur. Palatability of the weed increases when plants are conserved in hay or silage or treated with herbicide.
Cultural – Pulling the plant once it is flowering is common practice although care should be taken to ensure the whole root is removed to prevent the weed re-establishing. Often this process must be repeated a number of times to remove all signs of roots. Cutting on a regular basis is also an option. Continue to cut down the vegetation back to ground level and keep cutting it to prevent the weed from flowering, thus controlling its spread from seed. It is important to remove or burn all collected vegetation.
Chemical – Treatment can be made to the plant rosettes in the spring and in the autumn before frost damages the foliage.
The ALS Contracts Team can be contacted on 01952 898518/9 for enquiries regarding Ragwort Control or email firstname.lastname@example.org