Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Ragwort - the true story

It has been a fantastic year for ragwort on the island this year. In places it has created a golden duvet of colour but some people who have come over to the island look at it as being a problem that needs to be controlled. 
Firstly the reason why we have so much ragwort lies in the weather of a couple of winters ago. Between Christmas and New Year a huge south westerly storm hit the island in Dec 2011 and scorched off a lot of the vegetation with salt spray leaving lots of bare ground. Opportunistic plants took advantage of these bare patches and last summer we had a sea of prickly sow-thistle forming large beds. This is an annual but ragwort is a biennial, it takes 2 years for the plant to flower and it is only now that the ragwort that sprouted in the bare soil has become obvious. 
And it is a great plant to have on a nature reserve. It provides the food and home for 77 species of insect, 30 of which feed exclusively on ragwort and a number of which as scarce. Another 117 species of insect use it as a nectar source when travelling.
 And as for the legal bit about having to remove it from your land? Ragwort is mentioned in the Weeds Act 1959. This is what the Act says "(1) Where the minister of Agriculture fish and food (in this act referred to as ' the Minister') is satisfied that there are injurious weeds to which this act applies growing upon any land he may serve upon the occupier of the land a notice, to take such action as may be necessary to prevent the weeds from spreading.

So I think our ragwort is safe to others 6 miles out in the Forth. Finally John Clare the poet had a more positive view of the plant.
Ragwort thou humble flower with tattered leaves
I love to see thee come & litter gold...
Thy waste of shining blossoms richly shields
The sun tanned sward in splendid hues that burn
So bright & glaring that the very light
Of the rich sunshine doth to paleness turn
& seems but very shadows in thy sight.
John Clare 1831

1 comment:

  1. It's good to read some good about Ragwork. It's a noxious weed in Australia and very difficult to eradicate.