Country Corner - Losing the rag about a wart on the landscape

Ragwort is a vital pollinator.
Ragwort is a vital pollinator.

Ragwort – I hesitate to use the word in print, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

Folk get all excited about this humble plant.

Horse owners hate it and want it wiped off the face of the earth as it is poisonous to horses.

For the best part of a century the government has had power to force farmers to get rid of ragwort, though I have never seen those powers used.

Away from horse pastures, ragwort is a magnet for bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other vital pollinators.

However, all the anti ragwort press, which has gone on for so long, has even influenced conservationists, who regularly pull it out.

Strangely, these are often the same conservationists who regularly mow or strim wild grassland to allow non grass plants to compete with grasses.

So called weeds such as thistles, knapweed and ragwort are favourite pollen and nectar sources among insects and are more than capable of competing with wild grasses without any help whatsoever.

It is even common to see these species grubbed up to plant wildflowers, with the intention of helping pollinators.

I just wish environmentalists would take a good look at what is already growing and living on a site before they change it.

I’m sure if ragwort was looked at as a wild plant the same as any other, it might finally be recognised for the valuable wildlife supporter it is.

An environmental risk assessment should always be carried out ahead of any conservation works.

Too often we allow our love of neatness and order to influence our actions.

Or, in the case of ragwort, attitudes learned from the farming and gardening worlds where many wildflowers are labelled as weeds.

It’s a wildflower.