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Tansy Ragwort
Keep an eye out for that Ragwort villain posted on 07/31/2017

There’s a killer loose on the Mountain. His name is Ragwort. That’s Tansy Ragwort to you, pal.

The invasive weed tansy ragwort has a long and deadly history in the Pacific Northwest. It is believed to have been brought here in the early 20th Century through ballast water from ships.

This noxious plant is dangerous to humans and livestock due to a poisonous alkaloid in its tissue which causes liver damage when ingested, according to Lisa Kilders, education and outreach program manager for the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District.

“Horses and cows are especially susceptible to this poisonous weed with death occurring after consuming 3 to 8 percent of body weight,” Kilders wrote in a press release to The Mountain Times. “Humans can also be harmed from tansy ragwort by consuming the plant, consuming livestock suffering from liver damage … by consuming animal products such as milk (made from liver damaged cows), and honey (made with tansy ragwort nectar).”

Ragwort is an especially familiar sight in rural communities. It prefers a cool, wet climate, well-drained soils and full to partial sun.

“You can see patches of tansy in pastures, fields, grasslands, vacant land, waste places, horse trails, roadsides, rangeland, riparian areas, and clear cuts,” Kilders wrote.

Tansy ragwort is a biennial, taking two years to complete its lifecycle. In its first year, it appears as a ground-hugging rosette, transitioning in its second year up to six feet in height. It blooms in late spring and early summer with yellow flowers. The stems are green, sometimes with a reddish tinge, and the leaves are dark green and ruffled.

Control methods

Rosettes should be dug up, removing the root. Because it is toxic, wear gloves and protective clothing. Pulled plants should be bagged and placed in the municipal waste.

Mowing is not a good control method. While it may prevent the plant from immediately producing seeds, it also stimulates additional growth.

Insects have been introduced – most notably the Cinnabar moth – to help control the invader. The caterpillars of the moth feed on the flowering ragwort during the summer.

For information on how to control the tansy ragwort with chemical controls, contact the WeedWise program at 503-210-6000.

By Larry Berteau/MT

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