Sunday, 15 August 2010

A killer in the bushes

You see this pretty yellow flower?

Lovely isn't it?

It's a plant that grows all year round, but it looks at its best around now when the flowers are fully in bloom. At this time of year you sometimes see quite large clumps of it in fields or decorating the roadside verges.

It's called ragwort...

...and it's very bad news indeed.

Ragwort is poisonous and represents a major health risk to livestock in general and horses in particular. It contains an alkaloid that, once ingested, remains in the body. Sufficient accumulations of this poison can lead to blindness and liver failure. Even if ragwort has been cut down, the poison remains in the dead plant material so it is still toxic. The only safe way to dispose of it is to burn it.

I'm delighted to report that the Highways Department of our County Council (Cheshire East) are very good at dealing with ragwort. Every August they seem to have a blitz on it and you can see them digging it up and taking it away to be burnt. If everyone else made a similar effort, we might stand a better chance of eliminating scenes like this.

This image is from the World Horse Welfare website, where there's more information on how to help eliminate this lethal weed.