Nature Table: Ragwort

Common ragwort is a native wildflower found in rough pasture and road verges. Its clusters of golden flowers carried on a stem 50cm to 100cm tall are in bloom at present.

Though it’s an attractive flower and beneficial to many insect species, it is listed under the Noxious Weeds Act 1936 as the foliage causes liver damage to cattle and horses.

It appears the fresh foliage is unattractive to livestock but that it ‘sweetens’ when it dries so hay or haylage containing ragwort poses the greatest danger.

Traditionally a goat was kept in a field containing ragwort and cattle — the goat cleared the ragwort but was immune to the toxin. Marsh ragwort is a related species confined to boggy areas.

Oxford ragwort and hoary ragwort are rare and localised. There is a variant of common ragwort found in coastal areas which has flowers that lack the long petals (technically ‘ray florets’).

In many parts of the country ragwort is known by its Irish name buachalan.


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