Friday, 17 July 2009

Poison

Two, poisonous things for today's post. Firstly a weed which is found growing in abundance on almost every bit of wasteland in Britain as well as the cracks in paths and car parks. Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea or Jacobaea vulgaris).
This plant has many alternative names, most of which relate to the poisonous properties of the plant including Stinking Nanny/Ninny/Willy, Staggerwort, Dog Standard, Cankerwort, Stammerwort and even Mare's Fart! The latter refers to the nasty smell of the leaves.
It contains a cocktail of poisonous chemicals detailed in the World Health Organisation's report EHC 80.
Despite the unpalatable nature of this plant, one small creature can be found every Summer eating happily on it's leaves and stems. We found one of these creatures this morning, eating for all it was worth. The caterpillar of the Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae). The scientific name of this moth reflects the fact that it feeds on the Ragwort.
The caterpillars absorb the toxins from the Ragwort plants and thus become poisonous themselves. The bright yellow and black colouration advertises the fact to any other animal which might otherwise look upon it as a meal - a tactic adopted by many animal species throughout the world.
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