Pictorial Guide to the Flora of the British Isles

Protected species

Across the British Isles, some plant species are afforded special legal protection to help ensure their survival. Nearly 300 species are protected some­where in the British Isles. The exact species, protections and legal punish­ments vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; the only species explicitly protected in each of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man is Mentha pulegium (pennyroyal).

▸ Great Britain

Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 lists plants that may not be picked, uprooted, destroyed or offered for sale. It applies through­out England, Wales and Scotland. The two slight exceptions are that Hyacinthoides non-scripta (bluebell) is only protected against being sold in any form, and Dianthus armeria (Deptford pink) is only protected in England and Wales, as it is not native in Scotland.

Early spider orchid / Ophrys sphegodes

Ophrys sphegodes is one of nine specifically protected orchids in Great Britain.

Greater yellow rattle / Rhinanthus angustifolius

Rhinanthus angustifolius is, like many of our rarest species, widespread in continental Europe.

Limestone woundwort / Stachys alpina

Stachys alpina is protected by law, but may well be a recent introduction at its few persisting sites.

South Stack fleawort / Tephroseris integrifolia subsp. maritima

Tephroseris integrifolia subsp. maritima is endemic to the north-western part of Holyhead Island, Anglesey.


▸ Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the relevant list is Schedule 8 of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

Moss campion / Silene acaulis

Silene acaulis is one of several mountain plants that are protected in Northern Ireland.

Betony / Betonica officinalis

Although common in England and Wales, Betonica officinalis is rare elsewhere, and is protected across the island of Ireland.

Oak fern / Gymnocarpium dryopteris

Gymnocarpium dryopteris is widespread in upland Britain but may already be extinct in Northern Ireland, having last been recorded there in 1974.


▸ Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland, species are protected under the Republic of Ireland Flora Protection Order 2015.

Greater spearwort / Ranunculus lingua

Ranunculus lingua is common across Great Britain, but much scarcer in Ireland.

Great burnet / Sanguisorba officinalis

Sanguisorba officinalis is limited in the Republic of Ireland to Aughinish Island (VCH8) and Lough Conn (VCH27).

Common rock-rose / Helianthemum nummularium

Helianthemum nummularium is only found in Ireland on Ballintra Hill, County Donegal (VCH34).


▸ Isle of Man

In the Isle of Man, species are protected under the Wildlife Act 1990 (amended 2004), with the protected plants listed in Schedule 7. All orchids are covered; the list below includes only those species that have been recorded on the Isle of Man, and none of their hybrids.

Saltmarsh flat-sedge / Blysmus rufus

On the Isle of Man, Blysmus rufus is only found on the Langness Peninsula and at Dalby.

Viper’s bugloss / Echium vulgare

Echium vulgare is an easterly species in the British Isles, found at only a few sites on the Isle of Man.

Common spotted orchid / Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Dactylorhiza fuchsii is common in the Isle of Man, but is protected there like all other orchids.

Dwarf willow / Salix herbacea

Salix herbacea is the only proper Arctic–Alpine plant in the Isle of Man, where it grows at the summit of Snaefell.


L-R: Bidens tripartita, Melilotus officinalis, Mimulus guttatus, Thalictrum flavum, Ranunculus peltatus, Anchusa arvensis, Malva alcea, Lolium perenne