Ragwort

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Stevie
Posts: 16
Joined: 31 Jul 2017, 18:56

Ragwort

Post by Stevie » 20 Aug 2017, 12:14

Hello!
Not a direct tortoise question, but sort of.
We get the odd ragwort plant in out front garden, the tortoises are in the back so no worries there. But was just wondering on how toxic it is and how it affects people/ animals. My husband pulled out the ragwort plant with those rubber garden gloves and threw in the brown bin. But with the same gloves on he has been touching earphones, phone, drink bottle etc etc. Now, am I being paranoid or will these need wiping? How toxic is it? Can he touch these then the tortoises? Do the gloves need throwing away? Will his clothes be ok? He seems to think they will be ok but I'm not so sure.
I don't know if I am being super paranoid but I know some plants are really dangerous so I thought I would ask you guys.
Thanks and sorry if a stupid question :oops:

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Nina
Posts: 256
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Ragwort

Post by Nina » 20 Aug 2017, 12:29

Hi Stevie,
That isn't a stupid question at all! Some plants that are toxic, can transfer their toxins via sap (for example Euphorbias), and if you get any of the sap on your hands that can cause a bad reaction (I ended up in the eye hospital earlier this year because I pulled up some euphorbias from my garden and then accidentally wiped my eyes with my fingers and within half an hour I was in terrible pain). However, other plants actually need to be eaten to do their damage, and Ragwort is one of those.
Ragwort is extremely toxic, and every year horses die from eating Ragwort that is growing in their fields. The toxins in Ragwort cause liver damage and they can build up in the body over time and eventually cause liver failure. But you do have to eat the Ragwort to have that damage happen, so I think you are perfectly safe in pulling the Ragwort out and then touching your tortoise (lol, although maybe don't make a habit of it).

Nina

Stevie
Posts: 16
Joined: 31 Jul 2017, 18:56

Re: Ragwort

Post by Stevie » 20 Aug 2017, 12:35

Thank you so much for your prompt response. I am a bit of a worrier anyway so things like this send me into overdrive! I've been reading all sorts on the internet about people burning ragwort after they have pulled it out etc. But couldn't find if touching it it really toxic. And so I thought I would ask you guys as you know what your talking about!
Sorry to hear you had to go to hospital with your eye, some plants are awful.
Thank you again and enjoy your weekend
Stevie x

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lin
Posts: 179
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:27

Re: Ragwort

Post by lin » 20 Aug 2017, 12:37

I agree with Nina, Stevie.
Its also the particular person and their reaction to the toxic plants. I have quite a strong resistence to most of the plants including Ragwort and it dont affect me if I am pulling it up by hand but thats not to say it will not affect your husband.
I had the same as Nina with a Euphorbia spine hit me in the elbow and I am still having trouble from it. Oleander....dont go there, I wont even look at it and I cant understand it being planted in public places anywhere!
We must take the upmost care we can, and dont take mother nature for granted or she will have her revenge.

Lin

Heather
Posts: 15
Joined: 11 Jun 2017, 16:23

Re: Ragwort

Post by Heather » 03 Oct 2017, 18:45

Hi - regards ragwort - as a horse owner this is something that has been of interest to me for most of my 60 odd years!!

In general, horse won't eat ragwort growing in their fields, except maybe if they are starving, as there is something in the growing plant that deters them. The danger to horses is generally when, as a dried material, it is eaten in hay, when it is not unpalatable. In fact it lakes many kilos of Ragwort to kill a horse. It is toxic to all livestock, being a cumulative poison that effects the liver. As horses tend to live very much longer than cattle & sheep, etc., they are more likely to be subject to the poisons over time.

It is recommended that gloves are always worn when handing this plant, as the alkaloids can be absorbed through the skin I understand, & children could be affected if they play with it. However, I've been pulling it most of my life (in small amounts!), only using gloves in recent years...& I'm still here.

So - respect it, & please don't let it set seed (which is viable for 30 years +!). Dig it up & dispose of it where nothing can eat it, but don't worry about it too much!

Sorry to go on so.....!

Heather

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Nina
Posts: 256
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Ragwort

Post by Nina » 03 Oct 2017, 19:11

Very wise words, Heather -- thanks!

And you are right that many horses, and most cattle, shy away from Ragwort in fields. The toxic component -- pyrrolizidine alkaloids -- give the plant a very bitter taste when it is fresh, but the process of wilting or dying reduces the bitterness and, as you say, when it is mixed with hay it is very difficult to taste. Here's an article from a Dutch Ragwort website about how the toxins in Ragwort work: http://www.ragwort.org.uk/component/con ... es-it-work

And here is another article from a UK site that says that although Ragwort is indeed deadly, the numbers of actual deaths of horses has been exaggerated:
http://www.ragwortfacts.com/ragwort-horse-deaths.html

That doesn't lessen the fact that it is deadly, and its effects are cumulative and so might not be seen until it is too late. So your advice to respect it, and certainly to dig it up and not let it set seed is excellent advice, and I hope that people follow it.

One of the real problems that we have when we are researching individual plants as potential food for tortoises is that the digestive system of reptiles is different from that of mammals, and it is well known that many tortoises inhabit areas where food is scarce, and so in order to compete with mammals for the little food available, some species of tortoise have evolved to be able to eat plants that would otherwise be toxic to mammals. Unfortunately, most scientific research is undertaken with reference to either humans, or livestock, and in a few cases pets like cats and dogs. So we have to interpret the conclusions of research on particular plants where reptiles were not a part of the study. For this reason, and because we are dealing with people's precious pets, we always err on the side of caution, but with Ragwort I think there is no grey area -- I would never risk my tortoise coming into contact with it.

Nina

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