Monday 24th July 2017
Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris)
This wildflower is clearly visible above the surrounding flora at up to a meter tall, their distinctive large, flat topped clusters of yellow flowers. Ragwort normally has a lifespan of two years, flowering on the second year, hence it can appear to disappear every other year. Equestrians and pastoral farmers promptly remove any ragwort from their land as it is poisonous to many domesticated mammals. Whilst alive it is unpalatable and if you crush a handful you can smell the deterrent however when the plant is cut or wilting this chemical dissipates whilst the toxins remain. Ragwort is however used by many insects as a food source including the Cinnabar moth who is wholly dependent on the ragwort, building up reserves of the toxins when they ingest the leaves and flowers.
By Tom Cowley
Fun fact; In Scotland Ragwort is known colloquially as stinking Willie as it was widespread following Prince William’s campaign to put down the Jacobite Rising in 1746, likely a result of the disturbed ground.