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Fears raised over invasion of deadly weed near Newquay

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: August 18, 2013

HEALTH HAZARD: Horses will not normally eat growing ragwort, but large amounts eaten when cut and dried can be harmful.

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CONCERNS have been raised in the Newquay area over the spread of a poisonous weed that is deadly to animals, and could even cause liver problems in people.

Crantock parish councillor Ian Inskip alerted his colleagues to the invasion of ragwort at Cubert Common and the Crantock dunes earlier this year, but says the dangerous weed is now spreading out of control in some areas, and residents and councils must unite with the National Trust (NT) to bring it under control.

Ragwort is a yellow-flowered plant that has been known to kill livestock and horses through liver poisoning.

Mr Inskip said: "Ragwort also presents a liver damage hazard to humans if their skin comes into contact with it, or if the pollen is inhaled, so if children pick the attractive yellow flowers, they are at significant risk of getting the toxins absorbed through the skin and inhaled.

"There's no short-term solution, so it would be sensible for Cornwall Council to work with parish councils, the National Trust (NT) and other landowners on a control strategy."

Cornwall Council is only responsible for controlling ragwort on public property. It is up to individual landowners to devise their own control strategies, and the NT's head ranger for Cornwall, Mike Simmonds, said it was working with volunteers, residents and local authorities to curb the spread of the weed.

He was aware of the problems in NT-owned areas around Crantock and Cubert, which had historically been controlled by good pasture management, encouraging dense ground cover of grassland through appropriate levels of grazing and cutting and by trying to keep the rabbit population down.

"Both tenants and NT staff and volunteers also physically pull truckloads of the stuff, but with limited resources this seems only to scratch the surface, although, through our visits, there are now a few thousand fewer plants than there were a couple of weeks ago," he said.

"Herbicide treatment becomes more of a problem as much of the area falls within a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and I'm not aware of any product we would be able to use that would target only ragwort among the wildflower-rich grasslands here."

Nor was eliminating ragwort entirely an option, as 30 species of invertebrate and 14 fungi were entirely reliant on the weed, and at least 77 species were known to use it for food or shelter.

"It's clear that it'll be no mean feat to get on top of the problem, but with support we hope to at least agree a way forward," Mr Simmonds said.

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  • rags_n_bones  |  August 18 2013, 6:23PM

    Labour's hidden unemployment: 6m on the dole http://tinyurl.com/n4ecs4j Well if this lot picked one plant each and posted it of with their claim formsthere would be no more Ragwort

  • BillEllson  |  August 18 2013, 3:40PM

    Ragwort Pulling is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most onanistic of country pursuits. Pulling up rawort disturbs the ground, providing excellent conditions for more ragwort to grow. This ensures that the sad, and the mad, who indulge in this bizarre ritual have something to do next year as well. Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) is a native British plant that has peacefully co-existed with livestock for a few thousand years. As 'by sunday' correctly states "The only time it poses a real threat is if you decide to eat it! Or if whoever cuts the hay for livestock doesn't bother checking to see if ragwort is present first." According to their website Cornwall Council already wastes £100,000 per annum clearing ragwort from verges. A Cornish ratepayer really ought to be writing to the district auditor regarding such profligacy. There is no legal requirement for Cornwall Council, or anybody else, to 'control' ragwort unless served with a notice by the Secretary of State compelling them to do so.

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  • sunday  |  August 18 2013, 11:11AM

    A bit of over exaggeration and scaremongering me thinks as even a child would have to inhale a significant amount of ragwort pollen to suffer liver damage! Skin contact is also extremely unlikely to cause any liver damage but some people are allergic to it and in those instances it may cause mild dermatitis. The only time it poses a real threat is if you decide to eat it! Or if whoever cuts the hay for livestock doesn't bother checking to see if ragwort is present first.

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