Because I think it deserves it, here again is a photo of the poor sheep that was attacked by a dog and again another reminder to keep your dog on a lead or under close control whilst you are in the grazing enclosure.
Most of the Ragwort we are pulling up is Common Ragwort, which can grow to about a metre and has yellow flowers. Common Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris) has the potential to spread over disturbed or poached soil and can become dominant. It is not a plant that has been introduced the British Isles and Ragwort and Groundsels are members of the Daisy family.
Common Ragwort contains toxins (pyrrolizidine alkaloids) which can damage and, in some cases, fatally damage an animal’s liver.
Ragworts are an important food source for insects and for some species, most famously the Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae), it is their main food plant. Cinnabar Moth caterpillars are black and yellow striped with little hairs and touching them can cause a rash. The caterpillars store the toxins ingested from the Ragwort in their bodies.
Because of the Ragwort’s close association with insects such as this we are leaving some Ragwort for them.
It is worth knowing what is not Ragwort, as there are plants that we have left that do look similar.
The first one, which looks most similar in my opinion, is Perforate St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum). This is a fairly common plant on the Forest and can look very similar to Ragwort but the stamens on the flower protrude a lot further and the flowers only have 5 petals, whereas Ragworts have many more!
Also similar is Common Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), which just to be terribly unscientific, looks like little sunflowers on stalks. Common Fleabane also has a lighter green stem and leaves than Ragworts.
Common Groundsel, which is also in the Daisy family, has deeply serrated and hairy leaves. This is possibly the most Ragwort-like looking plant of the lot and can also be a food plant of the Cinnabar Moth.
Another plant that grows on the Forest, and is yellow flowering, is Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria). A tall, wispy plant, its flowers remain quite small.
A plant that looks similar to this is Goldenrod, however this is a garden escape. This grows about the same height as Ragwort but has pointed leaves and narrow, drooping flower heads.
Worth a mention is Birds Foot Trefoil, which although it doesn’t grow to the same height as Ragworts, does come under the heading yellow flowers that grow on the Forest.
That’s where the old blog finished and I realised that I hadn’t made a mention of the Forest’s most notable acidic bog loving yellow flowering plant – Bog Asphodel! Maybe because I didn’t know how to spell it, but anyway here’s a photo of it!
Finally, we are now in the time of year to look out of Purple Emperor butterflies around the Forest Centre, Silver-washed and Dark Green Fritillaries and Silver-studded Blues. Small Red Damselflies, one of the stand out heathland dragonfly species on the Forest, are also on the wing, as are these!
This blurry picture is a Black Darter and, like the Small Red Damselfly, is reliant on heathland and the acidic pools that occur on the Forest. It is the only UK dragonfly species that is all black, and even though its eyes look bright green in the photo it’s not an Emerald dragonfly, just to be strictly accurate. This is about as tenuous a record shot as you get but that is what it is!
Also worth pointing out that commoner species also use these ponds such as this female Ruddy Darter.
And this very pretty Emerald Damselfly.
That’s about it for now,