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.

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