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Tony Grist

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Ragwort [Jul. 6th, 2018|09:43 am]
Tony Grist
Things I've learned about ragwort:

1. Horses cause it. Ragwort colonises horse pasture because everything else has been nibbled flat and the horses won't touch it because it tastes vile.

2. It's almost impossible to get rid of. Our tactic of pulling it up by the roots is just about the worst thing you can do because you're bound to leave fragments of root in the ground and every fragment can generate a new plant. Cutting it down is little better; it just regrows.

3. Herbicides will kill it off. Trouble is they kill off everything else as well. Herbicides (like pesticides) are vile.

4. It can harm livestock. But the dangers are unquantified and overstated. No-one knows how many horses it kills in a year but it's probably not very many.

5. Horses won't eat it fresh (see above)- and when they eat it dry it's usually by mistake because it's been bundled up in their hay.

6. It has its ecological niche. There are species of caterpillar that won't eat anything else. Get rid of the ragwort and you get rid of the caterpillars and that puts pressure on the bats and birds that eat the catterpillars after they've turned into moths. Nature knows what it's doing. Best not to intervene.

[User Picture]From: puddleshark
2018-07-06 07:34 pm (UTC)
And a single ragwort plant can produce up to 150,000 seeds. I spent years digging up ragwort every summer, with a special tool called a ragfork - it's a battle you can never win, but it does stop the ragwort from taking over entirely.

Horses can sometimes develop a taste for ragwort when there's nothing much else left to eat in a field, so it's best controlled if horses have grazed a paddock bare. It's much less of a problem if there's plenty of grass for the horses to eat.

I've no problems with ragwort growing beside roads though. As you say, it has its ecological niche.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2018-07-07 07:06 am (UTC)
We pulled it all up last year and the result is we have a much bigger crop this year. Chris- who owns the horses- doesn't seem the least bit bothered.
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[User Picture]From: puddleshark
2018-07-07 07:11 am (UTC)
Yeah, I always thought that ragwort defied the laws of physics... No matter how much you pull up, there's always more of it the next year.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2018-07-07 07:07 pm (UTC)
The cinnabar moth -- caterpillar and adult -- is a lovely creature, and it would be a shame to exterminate it along with the ragwort.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2018-07-07 07:20 pm (UTC)
I totally agree.
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