Weeds listed in the ‘Weed Act 1959’

Here we list the weeds specifically referred to in the act, including the Common ragwort Code of Practice.


This act gives the government (through the local authority) the power to require (in writing) a land occupier to take the action required to prevent the spread of injurious weeds. If a notice is served and the occupier unreasonably fails to comply with it, they are guilty of an offence, and following prosecution, may be fined.

If having been fined, the situation is not remedied within a further 14 days, then they are guilty of a further offense and may be subjected to further punishment. In addition, the government is entitled to recover a sum equal to that required to do the work from the occupier, or if this is not possible from the landowner.

Any person authorised to enforce this act, may, on production of his authorisation, gain entry to the land for inspection, but not until written notice of the date of the inspection has been given.

In 2003 The Ragwort Control Act came into force which is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It creates guidance as a Code of Practice on Ragwort Control, but does not force control, create a responsibility to control or make growing the plant a criminal offence.

Download the Government document below.


Close up of Common ragwort flowers
Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)

Ragwort is a native biennial plant growing to a height of around one metre. Bright daisy like flowers, the flowers are followed by dandelion like seedheads in August to September and are widely dispersed. All parts of the plant are poisonous and are a hazard to grazing livestock. Stock do not generally eat the plant in its green state but tend to consume it when dried in feed. The effect is likely to lead to the death of the animal. It is particularly a problem for cattle, horses, ponies and donkeys.


Spear Thistle (Cirsium valgare)

Also known as Scotch thistle and is common throughout the UK. The plant is a biennial and has a deep tap root, it reproduces entirely from seed, and these germinate in the autumn. The flowers are a reddish purple and occur singly, the stalk, the stems have spiny wings and the young leaves have a hairy upper surface.

Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense)

A very aggressive weed prevalent throughout the UK

The plant dies back in winter at this point the seeds are still retained in the seed head. The separate sexes need to be within a few hundred metres for seeds to be fertile, however some plants may be self-fertile. Plants can regenerate aggressively from the extensive system of branched, lateral roots which gives rise to new shoots, resulting in the formation of large patches which can expand at the rate of 6 m per year.

Broad Leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius)

Is a long-lived perennial, docks have a thick branched tap root that can if damaged grow from the top section. Seeds are produced in abundance, germinating readily if left on the surface and are capable of surviving in the soil for up to 50 years. Seedlings emerge from September, the flowering stem is loosely branched, flowering of the reddish-brown flowers takes place from late June onwards.

Curled Dock (Rumex crispus)

Are similar to broad leaved dock in appearance but have leaves that taper with a wavy edge. The flower seed clusters also differ from the broad-leaved dock, and they are more densely and closely arranged. Seeds are produced in abundance, germinating readily if left on the surface and are capable of surviving in the soil for up to 50 years.