What is it?
A native plant growing up to a maximum height of a metre with flat clusters of bright yellow daisy-like flowers in summer. 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. These 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 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. Primary responsibility for its control rests with the occupier of the land concerned. Rapid action is required once the problem is identified because of the quantity of seeds produced by each plant and their ability to spread.
Is it always a problem?
No. Ragwort is also very important for wildlife in the UK. It is a major source of nectar 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. However it is necessary to prevent its spread where there is a high risk of poisoning livestock or near fields used for the production of animal feed. A control policy should be put in place where a high or medium risk is identified.
Land not controlled by Cornwall Council
If you are concerned about ragwort adversely affecting your land you should contact the landowner/occupier of the land with the ragwort. If they fail to take action in line with the Government's Code of Practice then you should follow the Government's advice.
NB Cornwall Council has no responsibility for the control of ragwort other than on land that it manages.
Land controlled by Cornwall Council
If you wish to report ragwort on land controlled by Cornwall Council please contact the numbers below.
On the highway - Cornwall Councils' responsibility extends to the surface, including verges, but not boundary hedges. Reports should be made to our Customer Services on 0300 1234 222.
Other Cornwall Council Land - Enquiries should be directed firstly to the tenant or site manager, thereafter please contact the Highways and Environment team by phoning 0300 1234 222 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Long term control of ragwort will involve co-operation between neighbours and may require changes in land management or 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 the spread of ragwort.
The normal short term measure is to pull the plants up when they are flowering but prior to seeding and burning.
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.
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