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.