Nature Blog Network

Ragwort

A new sighting on the lane and I have no idea where it has arrived from. There is, and has been for a long while, plenty of ragwort along the path leading from Balladen Brook up to Meadowhead (despite the best efforts of horse riders to get rid of it) but that is a good quarter mile plus from Springhill. It is said not to be well dispersed by wind. It is also said to need a bare patch in order to germinate, and there is little of that on the lane. Yet there it is, in full flower and all its glory, on the south east verge of the lane. It is said to prefer cool areas with high rainfall so that fits then.

The walk up past Balladen Brook to Meadowhead and on up to Saunder Height has been a regular stroll for many years. Up to five or so years ago the ragwort was covered by the black and yellow caterpillars of the cinnabar moth, said to be its only source of food. In the last few years however the ragwort has remained but the cinnabar caterpillars have become scarce. No idea why, as I haven't seen any data on declining numbers nationally.

Apparently over 70 insects feed on ragwort, for about 30 of them this is the sole source of food. Have to get out with a magnifying glass…

I have no idea why it is sometimes called 'Stinking Willie', a name I've never heard for it around here.