What is Ragwort?
Ragwort (Jacobaea Vulgaris) is a native invasive weed that is an aggressive coloniser of any bare soil on which seeds may alight.
Ragwort is poisonous if ingested – particularly to horses.
Ragwort gathers a large community of insect species; which can be divided into :
- 30 that wholly depend on it
- 52 which use it as a substantial part of their food
- 117 for whom it is a major nectar source
Where is Ragwort found?
Most commonly found on set-aside agricultural land, where there is no established sward following cultivation, or on pasture land especially if overgrazed, poached by the feet of livestock, or otherwise poorly maintained.
It grows widely on wasteland and has spread along the motorway network where embankment plantings and establishing swards give it opportunity.
Growing cycle of Ragwort:
Seeds germinate mainly in the autumn when they are shed, and the plant grows as a rosette of leaves from an eventually spreading root-stock, which may develop unintentional offshoots around the parent plant.
The rosette builds in size and energy to produce the flowering stalk in its second growing season or often later. Winter chill is required to initiate the development of the flowering stage.
Damage, such as pulling that does not remove the whole rootstock, encourages the plant to produce unintentional shoots, eventually producing multiple flowering stalks. Seeds can then germinate in the space left by the pulled main crown.
The flowering and seed-producing season can be extremely prolonged; from mid June until November. A large plant can produce over 2000 flower heads in a lifetime, each producing 70 or more seeds. It is recorded that some plants produce as much as 200,000 seeds.
The seed produced is of two types. The central seeds with their parachute of pappus can be distributed by wind up to 70m or so from the parent plant. The heavier seeds from the edge of the disc are designed to remain in situ until shaken free, and can often germinate in the gap in the sward produced by the death of the parent plant. Seeds that do not germinate in the autumn of their shedding can persist in the top four centimetres of soil for four-six years, but seeds buried to a greater depth than this, can survive for at least 16 years.
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