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Plant  Ragwort

Ragwort - Photo  Copyright 2003 Gary Bradley
Photo: G. Bradley

UK Safari Tip:
One of the best field guides to wild flowers in this one at the Amazon bookshop - click here

Latin name: Senecio squalidus

Size: Approximately 20 to 120cms tall - depending on the species

Distribution: Found throughout most of the U.K.

Flowering Months: May to December

Habitat: Wasteground, roadsides, railway sidings, under or over-grazed pasture. Prefers low fertility soils.

Special features: Ragwort gets its name from its ragged edged leaves.

The Oxford Ragwort (above) was originally brought to the Oxford Botanical Gardens from the rocky mountainsides of Italy.

When it escaped into the surrounding countryside, the nearby stony railway sidings provided the perfect growing environment. As the trains sped past, the draught caused the windborne seeds to spread up and down the lines, and throughout the U.K.

The other factor in the success of the Ragwort is the number of flowers it produces. The average plant will have well in excess of a hundred flowers and these produce thousands of seeds.

Ragwort is quite an attractive plant when in bloom, but it is poisonous to grazing animals. It is a particular hazard to horses and cattle. Ragwort poisoning, or 'Ragwort toxicosis', destroys the liver, leading to slow, painful death.

In it's first year of growth, the Ragwort plant produces a small rosette of leaves. This is when it is most poisonous. In its second year it produces stems and flowers.

Horses usually know which plants are good to eat. Ragwort has a bitter taste when fresh, but after a few days it loses this taste. Similarly when it has been cut and dried amongst hay it has no bitter taste, but it is just as toxic.

Common ragwort is usually considered  as a weed, and if an area becomes infested with the plant, a notice can be served on the land owner/occupier requiring them to remove it. There's more information about this on the DEFRA website.


Track Down More Info

How to Control Ragwort
UK Safari Wild Flower Section







  2006 G. Bradley. All Rights Reserved