THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Tuesday 28th May 2013

The one thing that keeps me fighting the constant war against weeds in the garden is the evidence I have that it is possible to achieve partial victories. When we moved here, twelve years ago, it was Rumex obtusifolius, broad-leaved dock, that dominated. I used to finish most sessions in the garden with ’10 docks’. That is, I would go around removing a minimum of ten dock plants.

After several years, I was finding that I couldn’t always find ten docks to remove - a clear sign that you can defeat the weeds. It still needs vigilance to make sure they don’t return but, to a reasonable degree, I can claim the garden to be largely dock-free.

But, in the frustrating world of gardening, the removal of the Rumex seems to have provided the opportunity for the Ranunculus acris, buttercup, to take its place. And they seem to be more widespread because I’ve found that ’20 buttercups’ is the essential way to end a session.

As a result, I fill up plenty of plastic sacks of these and other plants at this time of year requiring regular trips to the community recycling centre more easily described as the tip.

I have seen this sign before;

Sign about ragwort on fence  



Close-up of warning sign about ragwort 

But, yesterday, I’d got into conversation with the council employee on duty so I asked him what the sign was all about. As he explained, he could only repeat what he’d been told following a visit to the site by a minister from the Scottish government.

He had been told that ragwort was not to go into the garden recycling bin because the material was composted on a farm and there was the risk of seeds blowing onto farmland. He said it could not go into the landfill bin and he’d been instructed to tell anyone bringing ragwort to the tip that they must double bag it, seal the bags and take it to the main recycling facility – a 56-mile roundtrip. At the main centre, he said, they dug deep holes and buried the ragwort in the bags.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (and if you are not see the Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort, page for a list of postings) you’ll understand that I found this situation laughable, especially since, while this conversation was going on, some of the plants I was emptying into the skip were Symphytum, comfrey, a genus that produces pyrrolizidine alkaloids like those found in ragwort.

I decided to have a look and see how these rules matched up to the official published advice. I should say that I’m not interested, today, in criticising the hysteria based excesses of the guidance just in seeing how the guidance compares to actual practice. The Scottish government publication ‘The Scottish Government Guidance on How to Prevent the Spread of Ragwort’. Appendix 5 deals with disposal. It sets out that ragwort from agricultural land is defined as commercial waste and disposal must comply with the Waste Management Regulations. Ragwort from domestic premises is not subject to these rules and the document distinguishes between the disposal of small amounts and larger plant masses but without attempting to define the dividing line between the two.

The guidance says that ‘To avoid seed dispersal ragwort should only be transported in sealed bags or enclosed containers’. I don’t know whether having open bags in a car counts as an ‘enclosed container’ but the guidance makes it very clear that ragwort cannot be placed in the green waste skip. (This is based on the false notion that ragwort seeds blow long distances but, as I said, today I’m not interested in reviewing the guidance itself.)

Where the practice varies from the official guidance, however, is what to do with the ragwort that must not be put in the green waste skip.

The guidance says;

'Options for disposal include: composting; incineration; controlled burning and landfill. (emphasis added)'

So putting the ragwort in the landfill skip is perfectly OK.

It also says;

[Don’t] 'Transport ragwort unnecessarily'

That pretty much rules out the 28-mile trip to the main centre that people are being told they have to undertake.

And there is another ‘don’t’;

[Don’t] 'Dig, bury or plough into the ground'

Suggesting that the council’s preferred final disposal method goes against the guidance. This seems to be another example of the sort 'risk aversion creep' we see so often these days. 'Could' becomes 'does' and 'may' becomes 'will'.

So, the procedure in place is actually not in line with the formal guidance. More importantly, however, the procedure in place is stupid. How likely is it that people will be willing to make the round trip to the main depot? How much more likely is it that they will go home, put the ragwort into a bag, tie the top and return to the tip and throw the bag into the landfill skip?

What is the chance that they might just either dump the bag at the roadside somewhere or empty out the ragwort over a fence into a field where it might have a real chance of causing poisoning?

I can’t help seeing the parallels between this and the drug control regime. Both are intended to prevent harm arising from potentially dangerous substances but both, in practice, increase the chance of harm. And both have been created by people with only limited understanding of the reality of the potential to cause harm.

Submit a Comment

You can send comments via the contact page but please be sure to say what blog entry you are commenting on.

Follow @thepoisongarden on Twitter

Full Entries


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


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


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