THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 

Search thepoisongarden.co.uk:

This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Thursday 12th July 2012

This is Ragwort Awareness Week. Or, maybe, not.

I think something has happened at the British Horse Society (BHS). I don’t know if there has been a change of personnel or just a change of attitude but, judging from its website, the society seems to be taking a more sensible and pragmatic approach to the issue of Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort.

This time last year was Ragwort Awareness Week, the time for the BHS to press its case about the dangers posed by this plant. In 2011, the week was launched by revealing the results of a survey conducted during the same week in 2010 and I expected that, around the end of June, we would hear about the results of the 2011 survey together with an announcement about the 2012 Ragwort Awareness Week.

But, nothing has happened. At least, there has been nothing from the BHS. Back in March I wrote about some of the flaws with the survey. The respondents were self-selecting i.e. it was not a representative sample of the population that might have given an overall view of ragwort prevalence. It didn’t ask for any demonstration that the plant seen was ragwort so, in effect, it was a yellow flower survey. A proper survey would have wanted to distinguish between common ragwort, named in the Weeds Act 1959, and the other species of ragwort that are not.

Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort

Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea),
common ragwort

The survey also had a single question about whether animals were grazing ‘on or near’ land with ‘ragwort’ on it. I would have thought that should have been two separate questions and I would have thought that, where animals were grazing fields with ‘ragwort’ in them, it would have been helpful to ask if there was any sign of the plants being grazed. My own limited experience is of seeing Jacobaea vulgaris in a field with cattle, for a number of years, and the plants not being eaten. If anyone produced evidence that animals were choosing to graze ragwort that would be an important discovery because, as the BHS itself says, at the moment ‘There are [only] anecdotal reports that some horses can develop an acquired taste for the plant, especially if there is little else to eat’.

The survey was, therefore, very unscientific and any findings would be easy to criticise. It seems, though, that the opportunity to criticise is not going to be available as the BHS has not published the results. And it has not announced a 2012 Ragwort Awareness Week.

Looking for any information about a 2012 ragwort week led me to read more closely what the BHS says about ragwort and it is not all nonsense. True, it does talk about plants producing 150,000 seeds, which is like saying the summer temperature in the UK is 38.5oC based on one single occurrence of that temperature, but it also stresses the need for pasture management;

‘Good management all year round will help to prevent the spread of ragwort. Do not overstock or overgraze paddocks and remove droppings on a regular basis. Ensure that the pasture is well seeded and fertilised if necessary, to help establish a thick, healthy sward and limit the chance of bare patches forming.’

And it points out that;

‘where land is not grazed or used for forage production, ragwort is part of a diverse plant community, has biodiversity benefits and does not require control.’

Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort

Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea),
common ragwort

Those two points are often attacked by the most ardent ragwort-haters on horse forums so I wonder if they just haven’t read what the BHS says. I’m sure there is fun to be had by baiting such people with direct quotes from the BHS site without identifying them as such but I wouldn’t expect it to change the minds of those who persist in ignoring the science in favour of their own prejudice.

It is nice to be able to write about a 'horsey' website that isn't entirely a fantasy when it comes to ragwort. But I recommend the recently revised information on the Buglife website for the full picture of how to realistically deal the potential harm from this plant.

Back to my opening paragraph. I wrote that this is Ragwort Awareness Week though the BHS has not said so, because Scardale Veterinary Group, in Derby, has announced it and produced a leaflet on ‘The Dangers of Ragwort’ to coincide with this week. We all make errors so it is unfair of me to mock the typographical mistakes in the leaflet that show it wasn’t checked sufficiently before being issued. But I couldn’t help but chuckle at the one that makes the plant seem much more benign than intended.

Under a heading ‘Ragwort Facts’, Scardale Veterinary Group tells us that ‘each plant can have up to 1,500 seeds’. I wonder how many anti-ragwort campaigners will quote that ‘fact’ in the future.

Follow @thepoisongarden on Twitter

Full Entries

2016

Tuesday 25th October 2016 Saturday 20th August 2016 Sunday 6th March 2016 Wednesday 3rd February 2016

2015

Saturday 28th November 2015 Friday 27th November 2015 Monday 17th August 2015 Wednesday 15th July 2015 Friday 26th June 2015 Thursday 25th June 2015 Thursday 30th April 2015 Wednesday 29th April 2015 Wednesday 11th March 2015 Tuesday 3rd March 2015 Saturday 28th February 2015 Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014 Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014 Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014 Saturday 16th August 2014 Tuesday 5th August 2014 Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014 Wednesday 23rd July 2014 Sunday 13th July 2014 Sunday 6th July 2014 Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014 Tuesday 24th June 2014 Sunday 22nd June 2014 Monday 9th June 2014 Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014 Sunday 18th May 2014 Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014 Saturday 5th April 2014 Thursday 3rd April 2014 Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014 Tuesday 25th March 2014 Friday 21st March 2014 Monday 17th March 2014 Sunday 16th March 2014 Tuesday 11th March 2014 Thursday 6th March 2014 Wednesday 5th March 2014 Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014 Monday 24th February 2014 Wednesday 19th February 2014 Monday 17th February 2014 Thursday 13th February 2014 Monday 4th February 2014 Monday 3rd February 2014 Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014 Thursday 23rd January 2014 Friday 17th January 2014 Wednesday 15th January 2014 Monday 13th January 2014 Thursday 9th January 2014 Tuesday 7th January 2014 Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013 Friday 20th December 2013 Tuesday 17th December 2013 Friday 14th December 2013 Thursday 12th December 2013 Sunday 8th December 2013 Wednesday 4th December 2013 Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013 Wednesday 27th November 2013 Tuesday 26th November 2013 Friday 22nd November 2013 Monday 18th November 2013 Friday 15th November 2013 Thursday 14th November 2013 Sunday 10th November 2013 Thursday 7th November 2013 Wednesday 6th November 2013 Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013 Sunday 27th October 2013 Wednesday 23rd October 2013 Monday 21st October 2013 Friday 18th October 2013 Friday 11th October 2013 Wednesday 9th October 2013 Tuesday 8th October 2013 Monday 7th October 2013 Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013 Saturday 28th September 2013 Friday 27th September 2013 Monday 23rd September 2013 Sunday 15th September 2013 Monday 9th September 2013 Sunday 8th September 2013 Tuesday 3rd September 2013 Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013 Sunday 25th August 2013 Monday 19th August 2013 Friday 16th August 2013 Tuesday 13th August 2013 Friday 9th August 2013 Friday 2nd August 2013 Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013 Sunday 21st July 2013 Wednesday 17th July 2013 Monday 15th July 2013 Saturday 13th July 2013 Friday 12th July 2013 Thursday 11th July 2013 Wednesday 10th July 2013 Tuesday 9th July 2013 Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013 Tuesday 25th June 2013 Friday 21st June 2013 Thursday 20th June 2013 Wednesday 19th June 2013 Saturday 15th June 2013 Sunday 9th June 2013 Saturday 8th June 2013 Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 blog June 2012 blog May 2012 blog April 2012 blog March 2012 blog February 2012 blog January 2012 blog December 2011 blog November 2011 blog October 2011 blog September 2011 blog August 2011 blog July 2011 blog June 2011 blog


IMPORTANT NOTE

The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.