More Ragwort

This week I’ve had two conservation volunteer work days, pulling ragwort. The plant is poisonous to livestock, especially horses (and giraffes apparently). We remove it by hand to avoid the use of herbicides that would kill other plants as well.

Calley Heath - before...

...and after.

On Wednesday we were at Calley Heath, where the meadow was full of yellow – lots of ragwort and a bewildering array of hawkbits, hawkweeds or hawk’s-beards – all very difficult to tell apart. With a large volunteer group we got a huge area of ragwort cleared in a short space of time.

Ragwort is the food plant of the Cinnabar Moth caterpillar
 
Red Soldier Beetle on Ragwort

Thursday’s work day was at Kiplingcotes Chalk Pit. This old quarry provided the chalk used to build the Beverley to Market Weighton railway line. Now the vegetation on the thin soil of the quarry floor is closely cropped by rabbits, while the higher slopes are rich wild-flower meadows, buzzing with insects. There was much less ragwort here than in previous years and much of it had been stripped bare by Cinnabar moth caterpillars. We also removed burdock, the burrs of which get entangled in the wool of Hebridean sheep that graze here in the winter. The burr was the inspiration for Velcro.

Marbled White butterfly on Greater Knapweed
 
Common Toadflax
 
Hoverflies on a thistle
 

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