Recording all plants growing wild in Somerset, not just the rarities!

The Rare Plant Register

The Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) is encouraging all county recorders to produce a County Rare Plant Register. Members of Somerset Rare Plants Group (SRPG) have been working towards a Rare Plant Register for Somerset since the group was first formed; with the publication of the most recent Red List (Cheffings & Farrell, 2005), work on the Somerset Rare Plant Register accelerated. It is intended that this will be available as both an online resource and a book.

Two draft lists of species qualifying for inclusion can be seen by clicking on the links in the top menu, or on the names in the text following. The Extant list is presented as a table which summarises the reasons for inclusion of each species; the Extinct list gives categories of national threat/rarity and last date seen. The lists will eventually be merged.

Carex montana at Burrington Combe photo:HJC

Carex montana at Burrington Combe



Click on one of the following to find out more:


What is a County Rare Plant Register?

Geographical area

Criteria for selecting species for inclusion

Updating and presentation of records

Species accounts

References for Somerset RPR






What is a County Rare Plant Register?

HXP Cochleariaanglica portbury wharf

Cochlearia anglica at Portbury Wharf

A County Rare Plant Register (CRPR) is a statement of our knowledge of the “rare” plants of a county at the time of publication. At its most basic, it may simply be an inventory of qualifying species, but the more information is included, the more useful it will be as a tool for conservation. Nowadays it is generally considered that there is greater threat to the survival of our rare species from ignorance of their distribution, leading to lack of protection or unwitting destruction, than from wilful damage. Rare species cannot be conserved and protected unless their locations are known precisely. It is essential that detailed information, in a standardised format, is provided for use by government agencies and conservation organisations, to inform planning decisions and for the development of appropriate management regimes. Note that inclusion of location details in a CRPR does not confer right of access and the Botanists’ Code of Conduct (available on the BSBI website) should always be observed.


Geographical area

BSBI guidelines suggest that the geographical area for a CRPR should be a single Watsonian vice-county. In practice however, several counties which are split into two vice-counties, including Somerset (vc5 and vc6), are opting to produce a single publication to cover both vice-counties, with the vice-counties treated separately within the one publication. This is more meaningful to those end-users not familiar with the concept of vice-counties. The Somerset Rare Plant Register (RPR) covers the whole of vc5 (South Somerset) and vc6 (North Somerset) together with a few small areas of vc3 (South Devon) which lie within modern administrative Somerset.


Criteria for selecting species for inclusion

Pyrola rotundifolia at Windsor Hill Quarry 2007

Pyrola rotuntifolia at Windsor Hill Quarry

The criteria used for identifying which species to include in the Somerset RPR follow those recommended by the BSBI ( Any species in Somerset which falls into at least one of the following categories has been included:


  • Endemic species
  • Nationally Threatened (Red List)
  • Nationally Rare (found in 1-15 hectads in Britain)
  • Nationally Scarce (found in 16-100 hectads in Britain)
  • Wildlife and Countryside Act: Schedule 8 species
  • UK Biodiversity Action Plan: Priority species
  • NERC Act: Section 41 species
  • vc5 or vc6 Rare (present at 1-3 sites* in either vc5 or vc6)
  • vc5 or vc6 Scarce (present at 4-10 sites* in either vc5 or vc6)
  • Alien species of particular interest in Somerset

* Here a “site” is a moveable 1km square, sometimes called a “Wells” square, such that if discreet populations of a species are found within 1km of each other, they count as one site.


All taxa which are designated as Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable or Near Threatened on the Red Data List for Great Britain (and found in Somerset) have been included in the Somerset RPR. Species currently on the Waiting List, Parking List, or Data Deficient are also included in the list for consideration, although following review some of these will be dropped from the list.

The total number of species included for each category of selection is shown below; many taxa qualify for more than one reason.


Table 1: Number of taxa qualifying for inclusion under national criteria


Qualifying criteria for inclusion in CRPR

Number of taxa in Somerset

Endemic (Britain & Ireland)


Critically Endangered






Near Threatened


Nationally Rare


Nationally Scarce


Schedule 8




Section 41


vc5 Rare


vc6 Rare


vc5 Scarce


vc6 Scarce


Alien of Local Interest


The two critical groups Rubus and Taraxacum have not yet been included, but lists of these are in preparation.

Hybrids with a parent on the list have been included. Many other hybrids are also locally rare or scarce, but these will be listed as an appendix. In many cases, their distributions are incompletely known and they may only appear rare or scarce because they are under-recorded.

All species now extinct in Somerset (except Neophytes) are included in the Somerset RPR but are currently listed separately. Each extinct species will have a full species account; writing of these is in progress. Taxa appear on the Extinct List if they have not been seen since 1987 (1960 for Hieracium species) or are believed lost since then: it is hoped that their inclusion here will stimulate searches and that some at least will be re-found.


Updating and presentation of records

Lathyrus aphaca at Lollover Hill photo:HXP

Lathyrus aphaca at Lollover Hill

A CRPR is most effective if the records within it are as up-to-date and as detailed as possible. To this end, the existing records for each species on the extant list are being collated and checked and members of SRPG and other recorders are now focusing their efforts on making new and updated records, often improving precision of location details. Details of all post-1987 records will be included in the Somerset RPR; it is hoped that by publication most records will be post-2000. Most species accounts will include a table of locations, usually showing the most recent record for a site unless an earlier one included more detail. Grid references are presented at 6 or 8 figure resolution where known. In a few exceptional cases, the precision of the grid reference is downgraded out of respect for the landowner’s sensibilities or at the recorder’s request. Maps are included for many species; for species with a large number of sites, only a map is shown.


Species accounts

Writing of species accounts is in progress. Each will give reasons for inclusion, descriptions of distribution with historical details, names of locations, grid references, population counts, maps and photographs. As species accounts are written they are being made freely available online: those species for which the coloured name is underlined have accounts which can be viewed by clicking on the species name. Most accounts have been written by Helena Crouch – please email her with feedback, corrections, updated records or enquiries at



A list of references used within accounts is available here and will be updated regularly.


Ornithogalum pyrenaicum at Wellow

Ornithogalum pyrenaicum at Wellow


The production of a Rare Plant Register relies on the recording efforts of a large number of botanists. Their contribution is acknowledged with grateful thanks. A list of abbreviations of recorders’ names used within accounts is available here.


Herbarium codes

A list of herbarium codes used within accounts will be available here shortly.


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