Wednesday, 14 August 2019

The Ragwort Dilemma

There is another debate concerning whether conservationists should be tasked with removing Ragwort (primarily Senecio jacobaea). It is designated as a 'weed' (the 'Root out Ragwort' campaign) that must be removed. It is the only food of the larva of day-flying Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) which advertises its poisonous nature to birds with its distinctive red and black colouration. The reason it is poisonous is that its larvae (also distinctively coloured and grouped on the food plant) incorporate toxins (pyrrolizidine alkaloids) produced by the Ragwort to protect it from herbivores. The larvae are grouped as ingestion of one caterpillar will cause its kin to be avoided by predators.The reason Ragwort is banned from many locations is that its glycoside can kill horses, ponies and cattle by damaging their hearts and livers. Like most of conservation, it's a question of which organisms you favour and why. Different people will have different answers to these kind of conundrums.

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