We have something a little different for you this time! On Wednesday 6th August there will be a great opportunity to participate in looking after our nature reserve. Ragwort is a pernicious weed which spreads very easily and can be a danger to animals, so we will spend time pulling up as much as possible and getting rid of it (at least for this year!). We will be working alongside our Summer Warden and also local Wildlife Trust volunteers, and if you think you don’t know what Ragwort looks like, someone will be very happy to show you.
Meet at 10 am in the car park on Wittering Road. The plan is to be finished by 3pm at the latest. Please wear sensible clothing – long trousers, long sleeves, suitable shoes or boots, a sunhat and don’t forget waterproofs just in case. You will need gardening gloves as well. Bring a packed lunch and plenty to drink.
Even if you can only spare an hour, this would still be helpful, so do come along and join the team.
Things you may not know about the ragwort
1. Ecological Importance (source Wikipedia)
In the UK, where the plant is native, Ragwort provides a home and food source to at least 77 insect species. Thirty of these species of invertebrate use Ragwort exclusively as their food source and there are another 22 species where Ragwort forms a significant part of their diet.
Furthermore, English Nature identify a further 117 species who use Ragwort as a nectar source whilst travelling between feeding and breeding sites, or between metapopulations. These consist mainly of solitary bees, hoverflies, moths, and butterflies such as the Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas).
Without doubt the most common of those species that are totally reliant on Ragwort for their survival is the Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae). The Cinnabar is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Species, its status described ascommon and widespread but rapidly declining. Which gives yet more evidence of Ragwort’s important role in maintaining the country’s biodiversity and a vitally important component of the native flora.
It is the unofficial national flower of the Isle of Man and, though controlled in the farmland areas, on the hills it is tolerated. The local Manx name for it is the cushag.
Josephine „Cushag‟ Kermode (1852–1937)
Now, the Cushag, we know,
Must never grow,
Where the farmer’s work is done.
But along the rills,
In the heart of the hills,
The Cushag may shine like the sun.
Where the golden flowers,
Have fairy powers,
To gladden our hearts with their grace.
And in Vannin Veg Veen,
In the valleys green,
The Cushags have still a place
3. Poison (Wikipedia)
Ragwort contains many different alkaloids, making it poisonous to certain animals.
Ragwort is of concern to people who keep horses and cattle. In areas of the world where ragwort is a native plant, such as Britain and continental Europe, documented cases of proven poisoning are rare. Animals may also resort to the consumption of ragwort when there is shortage of food. In rare cases they can even become addicted to it. Sheep and goats suffer the same process of liver destruction but at a reduced rate to horses and pigs