Ragwort: friend or foe?

Ragwort is poisonous to grazing animals

You'd never know that the bright yellow daisy-like flowers that grace many fields and verges are actually poisonous.

The yellow flowers of the common ragwort can be seen brightening up the countryside the length and breadth of Britain. After flowering its seeds are dispersed by the wind making it one of the most widespread of all wildflowers.

A wildflower nasty

Despite its pretty appearance, ragwort contains harmful toxins. When eaten by grazing animals it can damage their liver and lead to liver failure in extreme cases. Cows and horses are most susceptible. Although most know to avoid it in the field, when dry and hidden in bales of hay it can be quite toxic.

Conservation grazing encourages wildflowers
Conservation grazing encourages wildflowers

Control

In meadows that we graze and cut for hay, we work hard to remove as many of the plants as we can. The rangers spend hours during the summer pulling up the plants by hand to help keep the cattle safe.