Ragwort is tremendously valuable to wildlife

Catherine Barber, Ranger Catherine Barber Ranger

Here at Brimham rocks we are in the happy position of not having to remove all the ragwort from site. Ragwort is poisonous to some grazing animals, however, as we do not graze the site, it is safe to let the plant grow. We keep an eye on areas adjacent to our neighbours’ land where seed transfer may become an issue, but most of our boundaries are wooded and so, largely ragwort free. We retain the ragwort on site where we can because of its tremendous value to wildlife. Huge numbers of insects rely on ragwort for survival because of the reliable and long-lived nectar source.

As a native plant, it is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) which makes it illegal to uproot Ragwort without proper cause.
With the decline in flowering plant diversity in the countryside, ragwort has assumed an increasing importance as a source of food for generalist nectar feeding insects in the late summer. Ragwort is the food plant of at least 77 species of foliage eating insects, including five "Red Data Book" and eight "nationally scarce" species. The most well-known is the cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaea). 
At least 30 species of insects are confined to ragworts, the great majority of which are confined to Common Ragwort or the closely related Hoary Ragwort.
Many species of insects may be seen on ragwort flowers. Some use them as territory markers or as vantage points to find passing prey or mates. Some species prey on the other insect visitors to the flowers, some are more closely associated with the ragwort flowers, taking ragwort pollen, and more than 170 species have been recorded feeding on ragwort nectar. In late summer, if you take the time to look closely at a head of ragwort flowers, you will see it tremble and hear it buzz with the activity of the live it is supporting.
Such an important source of insects is exploited by birds and mammals there by, benefiting the wider ecosystem.
Therefore we take a balanced view and recognise that ragwort does need controlling but certainly not eradicating.