Last updated: 12/07/2013
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What is it?
A native plant growing up to a maximum height of about a metre
with flat clusters of bright yellow daisy-like flowers generally in
late June, July and August. There are other plants that look
similar so careful identification is important (see the
Government's Code of Practice for information) The flowers
are followed by dandelion-like seed heads and the seeds can be
dispersed by the wind over a wide area.
Why is it a problem?
All parts of the plant are poisonous and are a hazard to grazing
livestock. Stock do not generally eat the plant in its green state
but consume it when dried in feed. The effect is cumulative and
likely to lead to the death of the animal. It is particularly a
problem for cattle horses, ponies and donkeys.
Ragwort is specified as an injurious weed in the Weeds Act 1959
and primary responsibility for its control rests with the occupier
of the land concerned. In view of the quantity of seeds produced by
each individual plant and the wide area over which they may spread
rapid action is necessary once a problem is identified.
Is it always a problem?
No. Ragwort, as a native plant, is very important for wildlife
in the UK. It supports a wide variety of invertebrates and is a
major nectar source for many insects. In many situations ragwort
poses no threat to horses and other livestock. It is a natural
component of many types of unimproved grassland and is used by some
invertebrate species that have conservation needs. However it is
necessary to prevent its spread where this presents a high risk of
poisoning horses and livestock or spreading to fields used for the
production of forage. A control policy should be put in place where
a high or medium risk is identified.
What is Cornwall Council doing about it?
Cornwall Highways spend nearly £100,000 each year clearing ragwort
from verges. They are concerned that other occupiers should also
take the issue seriously and take appropriate action to reduce the
spread of this weed in line with the Defra Code of Practice.
On other land in the control of Cornwall Council the relevant
department will take appropriate action if the problem is drawn to
The Council regularly reviews its procedures for ragwort control
and aims to strike a balance between resources, impacts on animal
welfare and impacts on the natural environment.
Cornwall Council has no responsibility to enforce the control of
ragwort on private land.
If you wish to report ragwort on land controlled by
Cornwall Council please contact the numbers below. For land
not controlled by Cornwall Council please contact the
landowner/occupier direct. For complaints about ragwort please see
the Natural England contacts below.
On the highway
Cornwall Council responsibility extends to the surface,
including verges, but not boundary hedges. Reports should be
forwarded to our Customer Services on 0300 1234
Other Cornwall Council Land
Enquiries should be directed in the first instance to the tenant
or site manager, thereafter to the relevant department at County
Hall. For a full list of contacts visit our contacts pages.
Enforcement of clearance of ragwort from private
A complaint form (WEED 2) and Explanatory Note (WEED 2A) are
available if you wish to complain about an infestation of injurious
weeds as specified in the Weeds Act 1959.
The complaint form is also available from the Natural England
offices listed below.
Please note that completed complaint forms should be
returned to the appropriate Natural England office for your area,
Weeds Act 1959 –
Incentive Schemes Services, P O Box 2423, Reading, RG1
Telephone: 0300 060
1112 (request Injurious Weeds)
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (mark
Long term control of ragwort will involve co-operation between
neighbours and may require changes in land management/ grazing
Herbicides can be effective but detailed advice should be sought
from a BASIS qualified adviser (most good agricultural merchants
can provide this advice).
For further information about control measures please see the
of practice on how to prevent thespread of ragwort.
The normal short term measure is to pull the plants up when they
are flowering but prior to seeding and burning (NB
Protecting our Water, Soil and Air: A Code of Good Agricultural
Practice for farmers, growers and land managers
available from Defra Publications, or online http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/landmanage/cogap/index.htm
) or taking to a landfill site (NB contact the site operator before
taking). Please note that all parts of the plant are toxic and
protective gloves must be worn when handling the plant.
Whichever method of control is selected, remember not to
turn grazing animals into the field until any treated Ragwort
plants have died and totally disintegrated.
For further information about preventing the spread of ragwort
and disposal methods please see the guidance on the Governnent's
Common ragwort disposal options.
Other useful links