Sunday, 12 August 2012

Confusion in the long grass

As the mowers are coming to cut and collect the long grass, some of our volunteers had to widen the corridor between the trees and shrubs near post number .2

The next job was to uproot as much of the Ragwort as we could.  If it spreads into other fields it could poison cattle or horses.  This is most liklely to happen when the plant is included in a hay or silage crop, so we wanted to get rid of it before the grass was taken away.

Although Ragwort is an attractive flower and a good nectar source, it spreads quickly and it is easier for us to control a few plants than wait till there is a whole field to clear.  A few plants will survive and that is all to the good as it is the food plant of the yellow and black caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth.  Allan Burberry tells me that the caterpillars retain the poisonous alkaloid inside themselves and this together with their warning colouration, protects them against birds.

Ragwort (above) is a pretty flower with clusters of yellow daisy heads with about a dozen petals each.  It is not to be confused with St John's Wort with its clusters of similar coloured flowers, but only with five petals each. 

They flower at the same time but only a fool would confuse them. Well I'm afraid I did this morning.  Allan just managed to stop me digging up the whole plant of a St John's Wort.

Martin, Allan, Alan and Steve pulling ragwort.

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