Sunday, 12 August 2012

Yellow peril?

'You can't leave that there. You know it's poisonous, don't you?' Well yes I do - and thank you for your interest.
The 'that' is a glorious big, bold Senecio jacobaea in full bloom right in the middle of my wildflower 'meadow'.  Ragwort, or Stinking Billy, that is.
Why is it that some people can't resist imposing their way of gardening onto anybody they meet? My visitor was horrified that I'd not rooted it out and felt he had to tell me so, but I wouldn't dream going into his garden and telling him how I feel about his decking.
Anyway, the ragwort in question is a bit of a monster and looks ridiculous because it is now about a metre and a half tall. That makes it a bit of a Gulliver in a meadow where nothing else grows to more than knee-height. 
It's a self-seed that has blown in and I'd normally have pulled it out. I didn't get around to it and as its grown I thought I'd leave it to flower as a bit of an experiment. I thought it would be interesting to see what insects are attracted to the flowers.
And with the change in the weather over the last few days the ragwort has come into its own. In full sun the flowers are covered in feeding insects - hoverflies, flies, bees and wasps. 
It's quite something. I spent time yesterday trying to get pictures of some of the insects feeding, although without a gret deal of success.
But the plant will have to go before it starts setting seed. Ragwort leaves contain a powerful alkaloid poison that can cause fatal damage to the livers of grazing animals.
They won't eat the growing plant (and I don't usually graze livestock on my lawn), but will eat it if it gets into hay. There's actually a Ragwort Act, which puts a legal duty on landowners to prevent its spread to grazing land.
And because its seeds are wind-dispersed it can spread. So before mine sets seed I'm going to cut it down to be on the safe side.
In the meantime though I'm going to let the hoverflies enjoy it to the full. And there's the added bonus of knowing that it annoys my opinionated neighbour.


  1. It's what gardens are for - annoying 'know it all' neighbours!

  2. Too right. Mind you, he probably feels the same way about my 'solution' to all his gardening ills (like turning that decking into wood fuel).