Common Ragwort – Senecio jacobaea

Common Ragwort is generally considered to be biennial, but exhibits perennial properties in certain cultural conditions, such as grazing. The leaves are pinnately lobed, and give off quite an unpleasant smell. The flowers are a bright sunshine yellow, and are formed in loose clusters.

It has a long flowering period, from June to October. It can be found in many habitats, including waste ground, roadside verges, wild meadows, pastureland, woodland rides and sandunes. It particularly thrives in disturbed soil, such as arable land and rabbit-grazed pasture. Native to Great Britain, a common and widespread species throughout.

Common Ragwort is poisonous to livestock, especially when dried and palatable, and has a bad reputation where horses are kept as it can cause liver damage. Yet the caterpillar of the Cinnabar Moth (which is its sole foodplant) absorbs the plants poisons into its own body which it uses as a defence against bird predation. The plant also provides an abundant source of nectar-rich energy to many species of other insect.