Councillor warns poisonous weed is ‘out of control’

Cllr Pam Doodes from Hooe with ragwort, a toxic weed she is campaigning to eradicate in Hooe and Ninffield
Cllr Pam Doodes from Hooe with ragwort, a toxic weed she is campaigning to eradicate in Hooe and Ninffield

A POISONOUS weed, which is a danger to animals and can harm humans, is ‘almost out of control’ in Ninfield and Hooe.

That is according to Wealden district councillor, Pam Doodes, who is battling to stop the spread of ragwort in the villages.

Pam first drew attention to the yellow-flowered plant’s proliferation in Hooe and Ninfield 10 years ago, and has since battled to stop it spreading in fields around the area.

Ragwort is known to be toxic to animals, although actual cases of poisoning are mercifully rare, but horses and cattle are both susceptible to the pyrrolizidine alkaloids the plants contain.

It can also harm humans if handled without proper care being taken to wash fingers immediately.

Once ingested, the alkaloids undergo a transformation in the gut and are broken down in the liver, rendering them poisonous and potentially damaging to the liver if enough ragwort is eaten.

Usually the toxins are excreted within 48 hours, but can accumulate and become dangerous.

With common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) being a specified weed under the Weeds Act 1959 and a threat to grazing animals, Pam prefers not to tempt Providence, hence her campaign to clear the plant and prevent seed dispersal or regrowth from root sections not properly disposed of.

Parliament also passed a Ragwort Control Act in 2003, indicating that it is of concern in the countryside.

While animals generally avoid it, it can still turn up in hay.

Pam said: “Within my ward I have been receiving so many complaints and there is a huge problem locally, especially in Ninfield.

“At my request, Hooe Parish Council has declared the parish a ragwort-free zone and a great improvement has taken place within the parish boundaries there.

“As soon as ragwort is reported either a parish councillor goes to dig it up or the landowner is asked to do so.

“One field which in the past has been overgrown with the weed has recently changed hands and the new owner has worked extremely hard pulling up all the plants.

“I’m very grateful because if the seeds set the spread of this poisonous weed is rampant.”

However, Pam remains concerned that Ninfield still harbours the weed in some quantity and hopes to persuade residents, local authorities and other agencies to help tackle the problem.