The Ragwort


Due to the warm weather in July, the humble ragwort seems rather early this year.  Here in Devon it appears in profusion, even in places where it has been persecuted for years.

Ragwort, thou humble flower with tattered leaves
I love to see thee come & litter gold,
What time the summer binds her russet sheaves;
Decking rude spots in beauties manifold,
That without thee were dreary to behold,
Sunburnt and bare-- the meadow bank, the baulk
That leads a wagon-way through mellow fields,
Rich with the tints that harvest's plenty yields,
Browns of all hues; and everywhere I walk
Thy waste of shining blossoms richly shields
The sun tanned sward in splendid hues that burn
So bright & glaring that the very light
Of the rich sunshine doth to paleness turn
& seems but very shadows in thy sight.
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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ragwort contains alkaloids poisonous to horses, cattle, sheep, deer and hare. It is difficult to eradicate and potentially fatal, being a cumulative poison which destroys the liver. Little can be done for an animal once toxic symptoms appear. This may not have been fully appreciated in Clare's day but it is now.
See:http://www.defra.gov.uk/environ/weedsact/default.htm

Nomad said...

Ragwort is also a critical plant for a number of native invertebrates, many of which are rare and endangered, and all of which of course play their unique and diverse parts in maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

That's all a rather cold and scientific way of saying what many probably did have some sense of in Clare's day!
He'll at least have known, since he cared to look, how much it's frequented (and needed!) by all sorts of butterflies, bees, etc., for its nectar!