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Cornwall Council seemingly unconcerned about ragwort 19 August, 2011

Posted by Jeremy Rowe in Local Matters.
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I took the photo above at New County Hall earlier today. As a snapshot I think it tells a tale about Cornwall Council’s approach to ragwort this year. The St Issey Division, which stretches from St Eval across to St Tudy, seems to be awash with the weed this summer. There is a difference of opinion as to how harmful ragwort actually is, but the authority nevertheless has a duty to remove it, particularly given the efforts most landowners go to to ensure that their land is cleared before the weed goes to seed.



1. Neil - 19 August, 2011

There is no legal duty on Cornwall Council to control ragwort.
The Weeds act places no duty on anyone to do anything unless they are ordered to do so. If your officers are telling you and you are repeating what they are saying s the case then you need to tell them to look at the primary legislation

You should also be made aware of this item about a recent very biased BBC radio Cornwall programme

Cornwall is apparently spending £100,000 a year on ragwort control most of which is probably not necessary

2. John Robertson (@thepoisongarden) - 20 August, 2011

The key point about ragwort is that any harm that may occur is the result of horse-owners cutting corners in terms of providing proper pasture and quality hay.

If there is anything else available animals won’t eat living ragwort. I’ve tasted it and I know why they ignore it as long as there is other grazing.

3. Lesley - 22 September, 2011

One major issue with ragwort is that if it gets into a hay crop it becomes palatable when dried but loses none of its toxicity. Even if a landowner keeps their land clear, they are at the mercy of their neighbours. Each plant spreads thousands of windborne seeds so doing nothing makes the problem worse every season. Surrey County Council have excellent info at http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/sccwebsite/sccwspages.nsf/LookupWebPagesByTITLE_RTF/Ragwort?opendocument#4 and the Scottish Agricultural College also have a very useful document at http://www.sac.ac.uk/mainrep/pdfs/tn570ragwortpoisoning.pdf

4. John Robertson (@thepoisongarden) - 23 September, 2011

‘Each plant spreads thousands of windborne seeds so doing nothing makes the problem worse every season.’

That is often said but careful research in both New Zealand and Oregon has found that very little seed is distributed at any distance from the plant. The oregon study found no seed reaching more than 14m from the plant after studying a variety of conditions.

It is a pity to see the Scottish Agricultural College repeating the idea that the seed flies long distances. it doesn’t.

Lesley - 23 September, 2011

I would be interested to know the sources of this research

5. Debbie חַי Sea-Kay - 13 August, 2012

“Imagine this: You stop eating. You get stomach pains. You’re losing weight – fast. You have no energy. The sun hurts your skin. You lose co-ordination. You’re struggling to breathe. Now you’re going blind. Worst of all, you can’t tell anyone how bad you feel – and even if you could, it’s too late for them to help you.

This is what you would experience if you were a horse suffering from liver failure as a result of ragwort poisoning.

Ragwort is poisonous to horses, damaging the liver when eaten. The toxic effect builds up over time, causing irreparable damage. This means that your horse will get just as ill from eating small amounts of ragwort over a long period of time as it would do from eating a large quantity in one go.

Can you be certain that your horse hasn’t eaten ragwort before you took over its care? An apparently healthy horse could already have serious liver damage from ragwort poisoning and may only need to eat a small amount more to trigger horrific symptoms.

One of the key things to remember is that there is often no sign of any problem until the condition has progressed so far that nothing can be done to treat it. In most cases the only reasonable course of action once the signs are visible is to have the horse put to sleep.

Liver failure is a horrible way for a horse to die. First they may become lethargic or behave abnormally. They can develop photosensitisation, where areas of pink skin become inflamed and painful when exposed to sunlight, like serious sunburn. They can also lose significant amounts of weight, even though they may be eating well.

Eventually they may go blind, have to fight for breath, start to wander or stagger or stand pushing their head against the wall. The symptoms and subsequent death can come about so quickly that owners have sometimes found their horse dead without warning.”

The Weeds Act 1959 on DEFRA’s site states that NATURAL ENGLAND carries out enforcement of the act.

Something has to be done about ragwort! With the prevailing south westerlies down here in west Cornwall, the seeds can be carried great distances.

Some horses are valued in excess of £10,000 – they’re not just ‘nags’, but even those that aren’t worth so much financially are considered to be family members by their owners.

The law prevents unauthorised persons from uprooting wild flowers, so we cannot help to protect our horses by pulling them out at the roadside, so Cornwall Council MUST do something. Perhaps all it may take is a call to Natural England to get the Weeds Act enforced and MAKE the council do something about it.

Lesley James - 13 August, 2012

Wonderfully put Debbie. Apathy seems to rule, with latest comments seeming to be that seeds cannot travel more than a short distance. I think not!

6. thepoisongarden - 14 August, 2012

‘I think not!’

And there is the problem. Well-conducted scientific research has shown that ragwort seeds do not spread easily but, rather than accept that, you ‘think not’.

Ignoring facts and clinging to unevidenced beliefs is not the way to deal with the real threat posed by ragwort which is that it gets into hay because farmers don’t take care when hay-making and horse owners don’t pay attention to what they are buying.

Obsessing about ragwort on verges drives down the message about hay and increases the possibility of horses being poisoned.

Lesley James - 14 August, 2012

In September last year I said “I would be interested to know the sources of this research”. You did not reply. Fine, it doesn’t spread easily. Please let us make our own minds up by telling us where we can look at this research

7. thepoisongarden - 14 August, 2012

Lesley James

It took me less than a minute searching for ‘ragwort seed dispersal’ to find this http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.2307/1939891 ‘actual dispersal distances are short’ ‘89% travelled 5 m or less’.

If you really want to make up your own mind, I strongly recommend Google.

Lesley James - 15 August, 2012

Thank you

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