Sunday, October 21, 2007

St James Wort

The photo from this morning is of the Common Ragwort (or Senecio Jacobaea) growing outside the flat.
It has got raggedy leaves growing at the base, with the daisy like flowers, so Ragwort is a descriptive name. At the moment they are the only colour in the car park as all the other weeds are dying down.
Its been called amongst other things Stinking Billy, St James Wort ( In English folk lore he was the patron saint of horses.), Tansy Wort, and many other names.

It was called Stinking Billy as it started appearing in Scotland around the time of the battle of Culloden in 1746.
William, the Duke (Or Butcher) of Cumberland, who after the battle had all the captured highlanders executed, and rode into a town with his blood stained sword. The weed seeds were maybe brought on the English army's feet. It apparently has an unpleasant odour when the plant is bruised. William has had a weed named after him in bitterness i think.
St James Day is July 25th , when it is first supposed to start blooming. It was thought once that it could cure a neurological disease effecting horses called the staggers. The people connected the Saints day with the plant and used it as a folk remedy using the plant as in infusion. They believed in its power and named it after the Saint.
However it is toxic to horses! In large doses it kills liver cells off, because of the alkaloids inside the plant. It has a bitter taste to try to deter grazing live stock. During periods of drought it can become palatable to some horses. It is only detected when 75% of the liver is damaged by which time its almost fatal to the horse.
Cooking it or drying it has no effect in removing the poison either, so even if you pull it out it needs to be disposed of.
It effects cattle as well as horses. Younger animals are more at risk than older ones. With this in mind it became an injurious weed in the 1959 weeds act. It is required that the owner of land takes reasonable action to stop the spread of the weed. Its not illegal for weeds to grow on your land, but illegal to let them spread to adjoining lands.
Defra (the Department for Environment, food and rural affairs) has a website advising how to recognise it, how to prevent it spreading, and a complaint form if the weed is not being dealt with.
You would not believe such a colourful flower could wreak such havoc to the point it made it into the statute books.
This website has more about the common names for this plant. It has apparently been spread to the Pacific Northwest too!
The snappy gardener has been educated this morning googling all around this one photo.They say a photo speaks a thousand words. This one has a colourful legend and history. Just growing alongside the Flats outer walls!


Priscilla George said...

Wow an advertisement weird. St James Wort has an interesting history behind it. I never would have known that plants have so much information because care. I wonder if it is banned anywhere else or just in the uk?

David (Snappy) said...

Hi Vanilla Lotus,The plant is on the Class B list in the pacific northwest.I read that sheep are immune to it, but the English sites say it can kill them too.If you know that plant can harm your livestock I guess you would remove it from pastures.The carpark has lots of it growing on the edges around the brickwall..
I get a lot of Advertising spam sent through comments.I turned off the letters because I thought it was a pain doing it.
These advertisers must find my blog somewhere.The worst advert I keep getting is hydroponics.It mentions that word about six times.It has still not made it through onto the comments!

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work.