Which Plant Species Are Protected?

July 21st, 2015

The diversity of British flora is an essential part of what makes the English countryside so special. Protecting our natural environment is a key concern here at Southern Ecological Solutions. When you’re planning a development, there are certain types of plants which you need to take special care with. The rules, which are set out under European law, govern the treatment of whole plants, dead plants or any part of a plant. Below we’ve listed some of the main plant species which need to be carefully looked after. It’s prohibited to pick, cut, uproot, collect, destroy, sell or possess with the intention of selling any of these protected plants.

Creeping Marshwort (Apium repens)

This low-growing plant features toothed leaves with a single large cleft. The flowers are very small and white and are carried on umbels – umbrella-like spokes. It is tricky to accurately identify the creeping marshwort as there are two varieties of a very similar species known as fool’s watercress. It has been found in several countries in north-west Europe, but it is not common. In the UK it was recorded at 10 sites during the 20th century but is now thought to only grow in a few places in Oxfordshire.

Early Gentian (Gentianella anglica ssp. anglica)

With beautiful purple flowers and small pointed leaves, the early gentian is an aesthetically-pleasing little plant. It grows mainly in open grassy places and light, warm soils, usually in limestone or sandy conditions. It exists in isolated populations in the English counties from Cornwall to Lincolnshire.

Fen Orchid (Liparis Loeselii)

This plant has pretty pale yellow flowers and is found in wetland areas in Norfolk, South Wales and North Devon. Its leaves wrap around the bottom of its stem to support the flowers at the top of the plant.

Floating Water-Plantain (Luronium natans)

The floating water-plantain has two different forms. The shallow water version has floating oval leaves, while in deep water it has submerged rosettes of narrow leaves. It has white flowers with yellow spots at the base of the petals, which generally grow singly on long stems.

It is found across western Britain, with plants recorded in Wales, the West Midlands and northern England. In addition, it has been introduced to some areas of the Norfolk Broads and Scotland. Many recent sightings have been in canals, having spreading from its original territory in mid and North Wales as a result of the development of the canal systems. It is also regularly spotted in continental Europe.

Killarney Fern (Trichomanes speciosum)

Discovered in 1724, this easily recognisable plant is one of three European species with translucent leaves. In some cases, there can be hundreds of leaves growing from the creeping root. It occurs in two forms in the UK – the more common gametophyte and the perennial, which is found in dark caves and crevices. The other, rarer type is referred to as a sporophyte and is the ferny form of the plant. To grow successfully, it needs a humid, frost-free environment such as a ravine with a waterfall. It is mainly found in Ireland, Brittany, the Canaries, Madeira and the Azores.

Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium calceolus)

This orchid is Britain’s rarest and arguably most beautiful with its deep red petals and bright yellow shoe-like pouch. It was once widespread in localised areas of northern England, but its numbers severely declined in the 19th century. It was over-collected by horticulturalists to the extent that at one stage there was only one plant left. It remains in one carefully protected site in the UK, and is also found in other areas of northern Europe and Asia.

Marsh Saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus)

A yellow-flowered perennial, the marsh saxifrage thrives in wet conditions. It now grows mostly in the uplands, as its ideal sites in the lowlands have been destroyed. It is only found at a few places in the uplands of Scotland and England, plus one spot in Northern Ireland.

Shore Dock (Rumex rupestris)

This rare species of a common group of plants has grey/green leaves and small green or reddish brown flowers which appear in June or August. It is only found where a constant source of freshwater is available, in areas such as the Atlantic coasts of Britain, France and Spain. In the UK, it is generally found in Anglesey, South Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Slender Naiad (Najas flexilis)

This flexible plant has a branched stem with long, narrow leaves. It has concealed fruits and flowers under the leaves. In the UK, it is now found only in Scotland, particularly on the western coast islands, but it is also present in Ireland, northern Europe and North America.

In addition to these plants, there are many others which also need to be treated with care. For advice about ecological and habitat surveys as part of the planning application process, contact our team today.

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