The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) encourages 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 (RPR) for Somerset since the group was first formed. The list of species qualifying for inclusion has been updated many times, for example following publication of the most recent Red Data List for Great Britain (Cheffings & Farrell, 2005) and all subsequent published amendments; the issuing of Section 41 (England) of the NERC Act (2006); and the publication of A Vascular Plant Red List for England (Stroh et al., 2014). In addition, the local status of species is constantly reassessed, as recording progresses.
The regularly updated draft lists of species qualifying for inclusion in the Somerset RPR can be seen by clicking on the links in the top menu. The “Extant” list is presented as a table summarising the reason(s) for inclusion of each species; the “Extinct” list gives categories of national threat/rarity and also the site and date of the last record in each VC.
Click on one of the following to find out more:
What is a County Rare Plant Register?
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 BSBI Code of Conduct (available as a download from the BSBI website) or here should always be observed.
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 are now within modern administrative Somerset.
Criteria for selecting species for inclusion
The criteria used for identifying which species to include in the Somerset RPR follow those recommended by the BSBI (available as a download from http://bsbi.org/rare-plant-registers). Any species in Somerset which falls into at least one of the following categories has been included:
Endemic or Near Endemic species
Species for which we have International Responsibility
GB Threatened Species (GB Red List)
England Threatened Species (England Red List)
Nationally Rare (found in 1-15 hectads in Britain)
Nationally Scarce (found in 16-100 hectads in Britain)
Protected Species (Wildlife and Countryside Act: Schedule 8)
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 only one site.
All taxa designated as Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable or Near Threatened on the Red Data List for Great Britain or England (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 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 each criterion
(Note that a species may qualify under several different criteria)
|Qualifying criteria for inclusion in CRPR||Number of taxa in Somerset|
|Endemic/ Near Endemic||33|
|GB: Extinct in the Wild||1|
|GB: Critically Endangered||9|
|GB: Near Threatened||38|
|England: Extinct in the Wild||1|
|England: Critically Endangered||7|
|England: Near Threatened||83|
|UKBAP / Section 41||51|
|VC5 (+ Somerset VC3) Rare||163 + 2|
|VC3 (in Somerset) Rare||2|
|Alien of Local Interest||7|
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, adding a further 48 taxa. Many other hybrids are also locally rare or scarce, but these will be listed as an appendix. In some cases, their distributions are incompletely known and they may only appear rare or scarce because they are under-recorded.
All species believed to be 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; most are already written. Taxa appear on the Extinct List if they have not been seen since 1987 or are believed to have been lost since then: it is hoped that their inclusion here will stimulate searches and that some at least will be re-found; this has already happened in several cases since the list was first compiled.
Updating and presentation of records
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 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 before 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 record included more detail. Grid references are presented at 6- or 8-figure resolution. 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.
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 underlined in the table 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
A list of references used within accounts is available here: References for Somerset RPR and will be updated regularly.
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: Recorders’ Abbreviations for Somerset RPR
A list of herbarium codes used within accounts is available here: Herbarium Codes for Somerset RPR