Weeds Act 1959
The Weeds Act 1959 (7 & 8 Eliz. II c. 54) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom regarding the control of several injurious weed species throughout the UK. It received Royal Assent on 16 July 1959, and aims to prevent the spread of the Broad Leaved Dock, Common Ragwort, Creeping Thistle, Curled Dock and the Spear Thistle. It allows the Secretary of State, or any person acting on their behalf or the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to use measures of enforcement to prevent the spread of weeds on private land, which, if not adhered to by the owner of said land, can lead to a fine up to £1000 and further punishment.
In Scotland, powers are now exercisable by the Scottish Ministers rather than the Secretary of State. This Act is amended for England and Wales by the Ragwort Control Act 2003. From 2014, the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act allowed a community protection notice to be issued for a range of nuisances, including an unreasonable failure to act over an issue such as weed control, of any species. Ignoring such a notice could then lead to an ASBO or criminal fine.
Species referred to in the Weeds Act 1959
Broad Leaved Dock
The Broad Leaved Dock is a resilient and common perennial plant found in grasslands throughout the United Kingdom. Unaffected by regular climatic variations and all but the most acidic soils, the Broad Leaved Dock can produce around 60,000 seeds a year and flowers from June to October. The seeds can survive for up to 50 years in soil due to a 'chemical that inhibits microbial decay'.
The Curled Dock is found mostly in meadowland, wasteland, sand dunes, and dry soils. The Curled Dock can be annual, biennial, or perennial, and can produce 3000 to 4000 seeds per plant. Although said to contribute to animal wellbeing by providing nutrients which would otherwise be absent, it also contains high levels of oxalic acid which could be damaging to stock.
The Creeping Thistle is a common resilient perennial plant found in grasslands throughout the United Kingdom. Characterised by spined lobed leaves, it stands up to one metre high and blooms with light purple flowers between July and September. Its root system is very deep, extending up to three metres underground and six metres sideways; as such, it is very hard to remove from an affected area. It competes fiercely with other plants or crops and can release a natural biocide into the soil to inhibit growth of other species.
The Common Ragwort is a biennial yellow angiosperm which can grow to 30–100 cm high. Prolific in seed distribution, a ragwort plant can produce up at 30,000 to 120,000 seeds. Toxic to cattle, horses, pigs, deer, and goats, the ragwort has a high alkaloid concentration which causes liver damage. Sheep are less affected but can suffer from consumption as the effect is 'cumulative'.
The Spear Thistle is an annual or biennial plant which forms dark purple or reddish flowers above dark green spiked leaves. A plant found in pastoral land and along roads, it is easily spread by vehicles as they pass by. A severely competitive plant, it can eliminate pastoral crop and open crops to infestation by insects; the spikes can dislodge from the plant and attach to wool, presenting a problem for shearers.
- Japanese knotweed, another invasive weed species of concern in the UK, but not listed in the 1959 act.
- Giant hogweed
- Himalayan balsam
- Revised Statute of legislation
- Wildlife: Ragwort and injurious weeds
- Home Office (2014). "Japanese Knotweed and other invasive non-native plants" (PDF).
- Broad-leaved dock
- Field Guide to Noxious and Other Selected Weeds of British Columbia
- Curled dock
- Dow AgroSciences (NZ) Ltd Controlling Ragwort