6th September 2010, Monday

Few plants have as evil a reputation as ragwort.  It is very toxic to lifestock and there is legislation requiring it’s control.  Shingle beaches are a habitat where it is beneficial and should be spared the fate of weed control.  It occurs as a natural part of the shingle flora, usually on areas where the beach is a little disturbed. 

Lichen heath with ragwort

The plants above are growing among lichen heath with abundant Cladonia lichens, wood sage Teucrium scorodonia and dodder Cuscuta epithymum.  Although not a rare plant in it’s own right it does produce a very valuable source of pollen and nectar in late summer when many other shingle plants have ceased flowering.

Peacock feeding on ragwort

A further benefit discovered in recent years is that it is a food plant for the Sussex emerald moth Thalera fimbrialis, a beautiful, rare and specially protected moth.  So, if as a manager of an area of vegetated shingle you feel pressured to remove this plant consider it’s benefits as well as it’s disadvantages. It is possible to argue the case for maintaining this much maligned plant.