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Noxious Weed or Precious Wildflower?


Whilst on the Sandstone Ridge on Monday afternoon, an eagle-eyed walker spotted this fine example of an orange and black striped caterpillar of the Cinnabar Moth.

It was feeding on Common Ragwort, a tall plant with a flower-head which is entirely yellow. The yellow flowers are borne in clusters, which are usually flat-topped and the leaves of which are deeply lobed and toothed; they are usually hairy underneath and have a rather unpleasant smell, particularly when crushed.

This unattractive smell hints at the Ragwort's sinister side; Common Ragwort is poisonous to livestock. This doesn't usually present a problem because most animals avoid eating it but, when dried in hay, horses may eat it, and the alkaloid toxins in Ragwort can lead to liver damage.

Accepting that the viewpoints on Ragwort are controversial, it is still a delight to see how bees, butterflies and hover-flies are attracted to the yellow flower-head and to spot such a wonderfully marked caterpillar on The Sandstone Ridge is beauty indeed.

For further information on Common Ragwort — click on the links below.

DEFRA Code of Conduct on how to prevent the spread of Ragwort CLICK HERE.

Ragwort — Noxious Weed or Precious Wildflower CLICK HERE