Wednesday, 16 May 2012

It spreads to other plants now,.

I'll start this blog post with a short digression. One of my many interests is in languages. After posting  today's blog subject I have some time scheduled to deal with my langauge studies. One of the things I study is Latin. You may think it is not a lot of use. I can say rather useless  things like "Possum Latinam loqui" ( I can speak Latin) or more truthfully "Non Latinam bonam loquor" ( I don't speak good Latin). I can certainly read it quite a bit, but I don't get much chance to speak it. The real benefit of studying it is understanding English better, and in particular, understanding technical or legal jargon.

Today's subject is a case in point. It is a classic example. It is about a website called where rather oddly, they start talking about ragwort and other land plants in the context of pond weeds.

Fourth most common invasive aquatic plants is the Himalayan balsam. This one can grow dominantly, reaching a height of two to three metres, capable of stopping other pond plants from thriving. In addition to these plants, there are other particular  weeds which can be damaging to animals such as common ragwort, spear thistle, creeping or field thistle, curled dock, as well as broad-leaved dock. Among these weeds, the most perilous is the ragwort.
It is because of its poisonous parts that can immediately kill livestock when they eat them. If you want to stop these invasive pond plants from spreading out of control, you must always seek some help first from professionals or local environmentalist for proper and safe treatments.
Let's deal with the list of plants first "common ragwort, spear thistle, creeping or field thistle, curled dock, as well as broad-leaved dock". It would appear that the author of the article concerned doesn't understand a piece of legal jargon which is derived from Latin. These plants are all listed in the Weeds Act 1959 as "injurious weeds". The one thing that "injurious" doesn't mean in this context is causing injury!
In fact  this word actually derives from the Latin word “iniurius” which in the middle ages would have been often spelled “injurius” . It carried the meaning of  unjust or wrongful and over the years from this it eventually developed the meaning of something that did injustice or wrong to something else, or that did in some way harm to an interest. In this case "injurious" means "harmful to the interests of agriculture."

It can't mean poisonous in this context because all the other plants apart from Ragwort are actually edible!
They may not be that good to eat and some docks do, like quite a few plants, contain toxic oxalic acid.
Many edible plants contain something that is not good to have in  excess and there have even  been livestock deaths caused by brassicas.

The Weeds Act is an anachronistic piece of legistlation . It doesn't make having these weeds on your land illegal it just gives certain powers to government  It was developed at a time when the emphasis was on increasing agriculatural production. It was never actually used until all the ragwort hysteria started. but now we see that the other rather harmless plants being targetted because "They are listed in an act of parliament" and so they must be dangerous. This is a common mistake even repeated by official bodies on occasion. Back in 1959 the civil servants would have done Latin in school perhaps. Today that is less likely to be the case or may be they use less legalistic jargon in writing laws.

We should remember it isn't just ragwort that gets targeted. It is any plant which might have yellowish flowers and also now all thistles and dock like plants in some cases. This affects all the wildlife that needs them too and thisles are an excellent nectar source.

Of  course I should point out that the statement, "It is because of its poisonous parts that can immediately kill livestock when they eat them. (sic)" even ignoring its incorrect use of pronouns is very badly incorrect about ragwort. Ragwort poisoning is, all the evidence says, rare and the classic symptoms are certainly not instant and sudden death.

 For more information on the meaning of "Injurious" see : Injurious weeds explained

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