Injurious Weeds

Injurious weeds - Weeds Act 1959

Photo of River Welland in Market Harborough

Five particular plants are known as 'injurious' weeds and their control is set out in the Weeds Act 1959.

These five plants are:

  • Common Ragwort
  • Spear Thistle
  • Creeping or Field Thistle
  • Curled Dock
  • Broad-Leaved Dock

Download 'identification of Injurious weeds' from Defra (PDF document, 970K)

Ragwort in particular is harmful to horses and livestock as all parts of the plant are poisonous. A build-up of Common ragwort can lead to the death of an animal. Ragwort is harmful either in its green state or when dried in forage, but can is more palatable to horses and livestock when dried. This is particularly a problem for cattle, horses, ponies and donkeys. You can find out more about ragwort from Natural England and also from the British Horse Society.

Controlling the spread of harmful weeds

Responsibility for controlling the spread of harmful weeds lies with the occupier of the land. However, if there is a risk of one of the five injurious plants spreading to neighbouring land, the Weeds Act gives the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) powers to serve an enforcement notice to the occupier or landowner to stop the weeds from spreading to neighbouring land. An unreasonable failure to comply with a notice is a criminal offence.

If you suspect that harmful weeds are on land near you there are several organisations you can contact depending on where the weeds are growing:

  • for privately owned land, contact the Injurious Weed department of Defra
  • for minor roadside grass verges contact the highways department at Leicestershire County Council
  • for land owned by Harborough District Council, contact Customer Services
  • for verges of large main roads (trunk roads) or motorways, contact the Highways Agency
  • for railway land or embankments contact Network Rail

Information from Defra on the control and disposal of injurious weeds

Contact the Highways Agency about weeds

Network Rail injurious weed information