Pretty and poisonous in pink

EMMA HORSLEY
Last updated 12:00 09/11/2012

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It might look pretty, but it's a pain to farmers and can be the kiss of death for cows and horses if they get their teeth into it.

Pink ragwort is an escaped criminal and is showing its pretty face all too often along roadways around Manawatu.

Both Horizons Regional Council and the Conservation Department want people to report the floral fugitive if they see it.

The toxic herbaceous perennial has purplish-pink flowers with a yellow centre. The plant flowers from August to December and can grow up to 1.5 metres tall. It also has a more common yellow cousin.

Originating from South Africa, pink ragwort was first recorded wild in New Zealand in 1963 and for many years stayed confined to Gisborne and the lower North Island.

More recently it has moved to the beach and is particularly fond of the west coast from Wellington to Whanganui.

It can also be seen in abundance on State Highway 3 from Palmerston North to Whanganui.

Council environmental officer Neil Mickleson said people should call Horizons immediately if they saw the plant. "If we know where it is we can deal with it and stop it spreading."

Another way to prevent the plant moving around the country is not to dump garden or roadside mowing waste anywhere other than at landfill or greenwaste sites.

"Dropping it at the side of the road just helps it spread faster," he said.

Mr Mickleson said pink ragwort needed to be pulled out by hand as any root system left would regenerate.

While it was toxic to horses and cows, sheep could graze it, although they did not remove the roots, allowing the plant to grow back.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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