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 their attention.
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 222.
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 land
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.
- Weed 2A Explanatory Note (Please read this leaflet carefully before you complete the WEED 2 Complaint Form)
- WEED 2 Complaint Form
- A web-based interactive map site is available at http://www.magic.gov.uk/
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, as follows.
Weeds Act 1959 –
Natural England Contact Details
Natural England, Incentive Schemes Services, P O Box 2423, Reading, RG1 6WY.
Telephone: 0300 060 1112 (request Injurious Weeds)
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (mark Injurious Weeds)
Long term control of ragwort will involve co-operation between neighbours and may require changes in land management/ grazing regimes.
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 Government's code 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 website: Common ragwort disposal options.
Other useful links
- Natural England - injurious weed and invasive plants
- Plantlife - friend or foe?
- British Horse Society
- The National Farmers Union