Evil ragwort blooms not pretty in pink
Don’t be fooled by its pretty blooms. Pink ragwort is a scourge, and now is the time of year when this evil plant shows up in our landscape.
That makes now a great time to pull it out any chance you get.
Grab the stem firmly around the base (use gloves if you are sensitive to prickles), and put your back into the task gently, but firmly, giving it a good rock if it hangs on grimly.
Break the stems to prevent seed set, and hang it out to dry.
Pink ragwort ( Senecio glastifolius) doesn’t really look evil at all. It has extremely pretty ‘‘flowers’’, and in many parts of the world, it is cultivated in gardens.
Fortunately we have more sense here, as it quickly becomes a rampant weed on agricultural margins, waste or rough ground, creating patches of pink along the Wellington motorways and on the roadsides towards Whanganui.
From South Africa where it is much prized, the lower North Island seems to suit pink ragwort even better than its native habitat, and those pretty ‘‘flowers’’ are what help this daisy to spread.
Each ‘‘flower’’ is actually an inflorescence called a capitulum. This is a gathering of about 100 tiny individual flowers or florets. Ray florets form the pink ring often erroneously referred to as petals.
Sadly, each floret is capable of producing a seed, which, attached to a fluffy pappus, is able to disperse widely on the winds. Stopping the plant from flowering slows its spread enormously.
Three big infestations are known locally - excluding the sand dunes, where new plants arrive every year via ‘‘airmail’’ from Whanganui. These are along the Gorge Road (currently inaccessible), the Pahiatua Track, and at Pratt’s quarry.
Control operations are under way at the quarry, though it is prime habitat for pink ragwort and a little tricky to weed. Several other smaller patches are known and are also targeted.
So if you come across this beguilingly pretty, but evil flower smiling at you, have the last laugh.
Pink ragwort at Pratt’s quarry near Palmerston North.