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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Friday 2nd August 2013

I’m always quick to say that anecdote is not evidence but, when people assert that something is a universal truth, anecdotes showing this to be false have some value.

It’s that time of year when people state, with certainty and ever increasing venom when challenged, that Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort, is increasing in prevalence and its seeds spread freely.

I thought I’d return to three particular locations where I knew I had taken pictures last year.

This patch of unused ground was heavily populated with common ragwort that was left to set seed.

Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort 

All that seed would make you expect an even greater density, this year, but instead

Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort 

there is nothing to see. I did look closer to see if there were plants at the rosette stage but the density of the other plants had prevented any from taking hold.

I also looked, again, at the field of cattle I photographed last year

Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort 

and found just another solitary plant occupying a large part of the field.

Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort

And, finally, I went back to the section of road close to my home that I photographed before.

Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort 

This year there is no sign at all of any ragwort.

Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort 

What’s interesting is that I also photographed the field adjacent to that patch of unused land.

Last year, it had a fair concentration of Rumex obtusifolius, broad-leaved dock.

Rumex obtusifolius, broad-leaved dock 

This year, there is an observable increase in the density.

Rumex obtusifolius, broad-leaved dock 

Rumex obtusifolius is another of the five plants named in the Weeds Act 1959 along with the common ragwort. That it doesn’t attract the same hatred confirms to me that common ragwort is being made the scapegoat for problems arising from poor care given by some owners to their horses.

What continues to puzzle me, however, is that organisations like the British Horse Society (BHS) prefer to side with these negligent owners rather than take them on and push for improved care. It is almost as though the AA championed drunk-drivers.  

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