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ragwort plants in woodlandRagworts (Senecio spp.) are poisonous weeds which are increasingly seen along roadsides, on areas of uncultivated ground around cultivated crops and increasingly in wooded areas.

The Ragwort Control Act 2003  puts a duty of responsibility on landowners to  control Senecio jacobaea, preventing its spread onto grazing land. It may not be a “duty of responsibility” for wood owners to control the spread of the plant, but they look totally out of place in our ancient woodland and the consequence of leaving them unchecked was all too obvious to see.

Common ragwort produces large numbers of seeds which flowers between July and October, generally, with seed dispersal by the wind following soon behind.

We began to notice the bright yellow flowers in July showing the location of large numbers of plants on the edge of the wood, with fewer towards the middle. If we were going to stop the spread of this unwelcome weed across the whole wood, through seed dispersal, we needed to manage the problem pretty smartly.

man standing behind 6ft ragwort plant There are several species of Ragwort and although many plants to not grow to much over 3 ft in height, we came across one that was over 6 ft tall. Certainly different leaf formations indicated a variety of different types of Ragwort, but we were on a mission to ‘take it out’ rather than spend time identifying!

Over the last month, July, we tried drenching the plants with a citronella oil product which was very expensive, producing ‘interesting’ outcomes.

We noticed that while some Ragwort plants were killed, maybe 10%,  others were only slightly ‘injured’ and many seemed completely unaffected. Some plants seemed able to resist the effect of the spray and were flowering, despite the majority of the plant having been killed. Obviously Ragwort is quite an adversary for weed-killers!

Having read some articles on the subject, the next attack on this unwelcome visitor to the wood involved a trip of several hours duration, complete with secateurs and several large bags.

We walked around the wood removing all the flowering heads,  hoping the plants would be tricked into ‘thinking’ they’d seeded and so die back. We’ll see, watch this space!

To read more about Ragwort control you can find full guidance various options specified in the Code of Practice appended to the Ragwort Control Act 2003.

Have you any tips for dealing with Ragwort? Please share what worked for you.

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