Injurious Weeds


Weeds Act 1959


The Weeds Act 1959 identifies five types of weeds which are considered to be injurious:

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

For guidance on how to identify these weeds, you can download  Defra 's Guide to the Identification of Injurious Weeds (click on the link at the bottom of the page).


Under the Weeds Act 1959 the Secretary of State may serve an enforcement notice on the occupier of land on which injurious weeds are growing. The occupier must take action to prevent the spread of injurious weeds if he receives an enforcement notice.


Common Ragwort


RagwortRagwort (Senecio jacobeae) poses a danger to all grazing animals and as such Common Ragwort should be removed from land used by grazing animals. In other areas, such as Melton Country Park, it plays an important role in maintaining the bio-diversity of the flora and fauna. It is important as a source of food in late summer for generalist nectar feeding insects and is the food plant for at least 77 foliage eating insects, the most well known of these being the cinnabar moth.


Many species of insects may be seen on Ragwort flowers. Some use them as territory markers or as vantage points to find passing prey or mates. Some species prey on other insect visitors to the flowers, some are more closely associated with the ragwort flowers, taking ragwort pollen, and more than 170 species have been recorded feeding on ragwort nectar. Such an important source of insects is exploited by birds and mammals.


At the bottom of the page is a link to the Code of Practice on How to Prevent the Spread of Ragwort. As well as providing advice to landowners, it contains a lot of information on Ragwort and when it is appropriate to prevent the spread of this plant.


Spear Thistle


Spear ThistleSpear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is a tall, biennial thistle (a biennial plant is one which flowers in its second year), with a pink flowering stem.




Creeping, or Field Thistle


Field ThistleThe Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense) is an important perennial thistle (a perennial plant is one which lives for more than two years), whose seeds provide an important part of the diet of farmland birds. However, the plant also provides food for many insect pests, and can dominate large areas of uncultivated land if left unchecked.


Broad Leaved Dock


Broad Leaved DockBroad Leaved Dock (Rumex obstusifolius) is common throughout the UK, and is easily identifiable thanks to its large leaves and stems of green flowers, which turn red as they mature. The plant is commonly used as a treatment for nettle stings.



Curled Dock


Curled DockCurled Dock (Rumex crispus) is also common throughout the UK, but prefers clay, chalk or gravel soils. Taller than the Broad Leaved Dock, it has leaves which are curled at the edges, with flowering stems that can grow up to 1m in height. When mature, the plants turn an attractive dark red colour. Like Broad Leaved Dock, Curled Dock is believed to have medicinal properties, and is often prescribed by herbalists as a cleansing tonic.


Other Injurious Weeds


Japanese Knotweed


Japanese KnotweedJapanese Knotweed is not covered by the Weeds Act 1959, but is dealt with instead through the Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Act 1991.




What is Japanese Knotweed?


Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) was introduced to Europe from the far east (principally Japan, Taiwan and China) as an ornamental plant in the early 19th century. As it has no natural enemies in Britain, it has colonised many different types of habitat and is considered to be a pest due to its rapid invasion of habitats at the expense of other, native, plants.


Japanese Knotweed can also damage property by growing through tarmac, or can increase the chance of flooding by contributing to soil erosion on river banks or by blocking streams, river channels and gullies with its large dead stems.   


The Law in Relation to Japanese Knotweed


There is no statutory requirement for landowners to remove Japanese Knotweed from their property. However, due to its negative impact on native species, it is an offence to plant, or cause this species to grow, in the wild. In addition to this, Japanese Knotweed is considered to be a hazardous waste material, and must be disposed of accordingly.


Controlling the Spread of Injurious Weeds


The responsibility of controlling the spread of harmful, or injurious weeds, rests with the occupier of the land on which the weeds are growing.


If there is a risk that one of the five injurious plants listed at the top of the page could spread to neighbouring land, the Weeds Act 1959 gives  Defra the power to serve an enforcement notice to the occupier or landowner to stop the weeds from spreading. Failure to comply with such an enforcement notice is a criminal offence.


How can I report the growth of an Injurious Weed?


Depending on where the injurious weeds are growing, you should contact one of the following:

  • If the weed is growing on privately-owned land, contact Defra 's injurious weeds department
  • If the weed is growing on Melton Borough Council-owned land, please contact our Customer Services Team by calling (01664) 502 502.
  • If the weed is growing on the grass verges of minor roads, please contact Leicestershire County Council's Highways Department by calling (0116) 305 0001.
  • If the weed is growing on the grass verges of major trunk roads, please contact the Highways Agency.
  • If the weeds are growing on railway embankments, please contact Network Rail.

Further Information


There is lots of information on the internet regarding the identification and control of injurious weeds and Japanese Ragwort.