Flowering plants and ferns

Context

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) can be notified if they include qualifying features under the flowering plants and ferns criteria outlined in section 3 of Chapter 11 'Vascular plants (flowering plants, ferns and their allies)' of the Guidelines for Selection of Biological SSSIs.  In Northern Ireland, ASSIs are selected on a very similar basis – the Guidelines for the Selection of Biological ASSIs in Northern Ireland is an addendum to the SSSI guidelines rather than an alternative. 

 
Guidance for site selection is designed to give particular attention to the rarer and more threatened species.  The more common species tend to form plant communities which are the basis for selection for habitat or vegetation types, though such selection will also include some of the rarer species.
 
Sites can be notified for individual species for: species listed on Schedule 8 (plants) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981; Red Data Book (RDB) species, endemics, non-endemics threatened in Europe, declining species and species at the edge of their range; and microspecies and hybrids.
 
Sites may also be notified for combinations of species, based on a scoring system of species occurring in 1-100 10km squares within Great Britain (encompassing RDB nationally rare and nationally scarce species).
 
If sites with particularly good species lists are not already selected for their habitat importance or for presence of rare or scarce species, such floristic assemblages can then qualify for selection where a locality has 75% or more of the total vascular plant species list for a community type of the National Vegetation Classification (NVC).
 
At present there are 115 vascular plants (flowering plants and ferns) listed on Schedule 8 (plants) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.  This schedule is reviewed at five-yearly intervals, and therefore any additions or deletions should be taken into consideration.
 
Under Annex II of the EC Habitats Directive, the following vascular plants qualify as features for the selection of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in the UK: Killarney fern Trichomanes speciosum, shore dock Rumex rupestris, marsh saxifrage Saxifraga hirculus, creeping marshwort Apium repens, early gentian Gentianella anglica, floating water-plantain Luronium natans, slender naiad Najas flexilis, lady`s-slipper orchid Cypripedium calceolus and fen orchid Liparis loeselii.
 

Summary statistics

  SAC A/SSSI Total
Favourable condition 46% 53% 52%
Main monitoring coverage E, S, W E, S, NI  
Reported assessments 39 285 324
Completeness of assessments 72% unknown  
Distribution of features     UK
 

Number of assessments reported by country and site type

Country SAC SSSI/ASSI
England 28 162
Scotland 5 102
Wales 5 0
Northern Ireland 1 21
United Kingdom 39 285
 

Natura features

List of Natura 2000 interest features within this reporting category

Interest feature name  
Formal name Informal name No. of assessments reported Total no. of features % assessed
Apium repens Creeping marshwort 1 1 100%
Cypripedium calceolus Lady`s-slipper orchid 1 1 100%
Gentianella anglica Early gentian 13 13 100%
Liparis loeselii Fen orchid 3 3 100%
Luronium natans Floating water-plantain 4 15 27%
Najas flexilis Slender naiad 3 5 60%
Rumex rupestris Shore dock 8 10 80%
Saxifraga hirculus Marsh saxifrage 5 5 100%
Trichomanes speciosum Killarney fern 1 1 100%
 
Natura 2000 comprises Special Protection Areas (under the Birds Directive) and Special Areas for Conservation (under the Habitats and Species Directive). The list presented here includes all of the qualifying interest features under these Directives, and shows the proportion of these features for which a condition assessment has been made.
 

SSSI features

List of SSSI and ASSI interest features in this reporting category

Interest feature name  
Formal name Informal name No. of assessments reported
Asplenium septentrionale Forked spleenwort 1
Carex buxbaumii Club sedge 1
Carex chordorhizza String sedge 1
Cystoperis dickieana Dickie's bladder-fern 1
Hammarbya paludosa Bog orchid 1
Najas flexilis Slender naiad 1
Oxytropis halleri Purple mountain milk-vetch 1
Polygonatum verticillatum Whorled Solomon's seal 4
Primula scotica Scots primrose 1
Rhinanthus augustifolius Greater yellow rattle 1
Saxifraga hirculus R Marsh saxifraga R 1
Saxifraga hirculus Marsh saxifrage 1
Higher plant assemblage Higher plant assemblage 16
Nationally scarce plant Trifolium suffocatum 1
Nationally scarce plant Polygonatum odoratum 1
Nationally scarce plant Primula farinosa 1
Nationally scarce plant Pulmonaria longifolia 2
Nationally scarce plant Pulsatilla vulgaris 2
Nationally scarce plant Scrophularia scorodonia 2
Nationally scarce plant Sibthorpia europaea 2
Nationally scarce plant Thesium humifusum 13
Nationally scarce plant Allium ampeloprasum 1
Nationally scarce plant Poa infirma 2
Nationally scarce plant Spiranthes romanzoffiana 1
Nationally scarce plant Phyteuma orbiculare 3
Nationally scarce plant Ornithogalum pyrenaicum 5
Nationally scarce plant Orchis ustulata 6
Nationally scarce plant Minuartia verna 1
Nationally scarce plant Lotus angustissimus 1
Nationally scarce plant Herminium monorchis 3
Nationally scarce plant Gentiana pneumonanthe 2
Nationally scarce plant Fritillaria meleagris 2
Nationally scarce plant Dactylorhiza traunsteineri 1
Nationally scarce plant Carex humilis 9
Nationally scarce plant Cerastium pumilum 1
Population of RDB plant -Buxus sempervirens Box 1
Population of RDB plant -Carex filiformis Downy-fruited sedge 1
Population of RDB plant -Cirsium tuberosum Tuberous thistle 2
Population of RDB plant -Erica ciliaris Dorset heath 1
Population of RDB plant -Euphorbia hyberna Irish spurge 1
Population of RDB plant -Euphrasia vigursii Eyebright 1
Population of RDB plant -Helianthemum apenninum White rock-rose 1
Population of RDB plant -Herniaria glabra Smooth rupturewort 2
Population of RDB plant -Koeleria vallesiana Somerset hair-grass 1
Population of RDB plant -Leucojum aestivum ssp aestivum Summer snowflake 3
Population of RDB plant -Ornithopus pinnatus Orange bird's foot 3
Population of RDB plant -Peucedanum officinale Sea hog's-fennel 1
Population of RDB plant -Phleum phleoides Purple-stemmed cat's-tail 1
Population of RDB plant -Polemonium caeruleum Jacob's-ladder 1
Population of RDB plant -Silene otites Spanish catchfly 2
Population of RDB plant -Sorbus eminens Whitebeam 1
Population of RDB plant -Trinia glauca Honewort 1
Population of RDB plant -Viola kitaibeliana Dwarf pansy 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Althaea hirsuta Rough marsh-mallow 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Artemisia campestris Field wood 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Cynoglossum germanicum Green hound's-tongue 2
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Cyperus fuscus Brown galingale 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Cypripedium calceolus Lady's slipper orchid 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Damasonium alisma Starfruit 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Eryngium campestre Field eryngo 3
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Filago lutescens Red-tipped cudweed 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Filago pyramidata Broad-leaved cudweed 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Fumaria reuteri Martin's ramping-fumitory 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Gentianella anglica Early gentian 4
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Himantoglossum hircinum Lizard orchid 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Melampyrum arvense Field cow-wheat 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Mentha pulegium Pennyroyal 2
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Ophioglossum lusitanicum Least adder's-tongue 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Orchis militaris Military orchid 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Orobanche reticulata Thistle broomrape 2
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Phyteuma spicatum Spiked rampion 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Rhinanthus angustifolius Greater yellow-rattle 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Rumex rupestris Shore dock 4
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Salvia pratensis Meadow clary 2
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Scleranthus perennis ssp prostratus Perennial knawel 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Senecio paludosus Fen ragwort 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Stachys germanica Downy woundwort 2
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Teucrium scordium Water germander 2
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Thlaspi perfoliatum Perfoliate pennycress 1
Population of Schedule 8 plant -Trichomanes speciosum (sporophyte) Killarney fern 1
Rare species Erica vagans (Cornish Heath) 1
Rare species Irish Lady's-Tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana R) 1
Rare Species Pyramidal Bugle R (Ajuga pyramidalis R) 1
Rare species Rare species 1
Vascular plant assemblage Vascular plant assemblage 122
 
This list has not been fully standardised at a UK level yet. It is intended to show the principal constituent "feature types" for this reporting category.
 

Maps - distribution

UK distibution of reported interest features

Distribution of reported interest features.

Map showing the locations of the 10km squares in which at least one condition assessment has been reported. It does not show features that have not yet been assessed.

 

Maps - Natura

Distribution of SAC features showing assessments of favourability Condition of SAC features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
Current condition of SAC features
Distribution of SAC features showing assessments of favourability (where unfavourable-recovering is counted as unfavourable).
Condition of SAC features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
The implication of the unfavourable-recovering condition assessments is that at some point in the future these features should become favourable. This map shows the effect of that recovery by counting the favourable and unfavourable-recovering assessments together.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: we do not have information on the timescale of the predicted recovery, which may be influenced by many past, natural and human related factors. A sustained sympathetic management regime is more likely to result in favourable condition being attained.

Key: Proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable:

Natura map legend - Key: proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable

 

Details of how these maps were produced

 

Maps - SSSI

Current condition of SSSI/ASSI features Condition of SSSI/ASSI features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
Current condition of SSSI/ASSI features
Distribution of SSSI/ASSI features showing assessments of favourability (where unfavourable-recovering is counted as unfavourable).
Condition of SSSI/ASSI features, with those currently reported as unfavourable-recovering shown as favourable
The implication of the unfavourable-recovering condition assessments is that at some point in the future these features should become favourable. This map shows the effect of that recovery by counting the favourable and unfavourable-recovering assessments together.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: we do not have information on the timescale of the predicted recovery, which may be influenced by many past, natural and human related factors. A sustained sympathetic management regime is more likely to result in favourable condition being attained.

Key: Proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable:

SSSI map legend - Proportion of assessed features on 10km squares that are favourable

 

Details of how these maps were produced

 

Condition summary

Reporting category condition summary on Natura 2000 sites and SSSI

This lists the 10 different condition assessments and presents a bar chart showing the number of features within the SSSI series and the Natura 2000 series (either SPA for bird features or SAC for features other than birds). Note that for Natura 2000 we are able to estimate the number of features that have not been assessed during the 6 year reporting period - we are unable to do this for SSSI/ASSI because we do not have an overall list of notified interest features for these designations.

 

NB favourable unclassified and unfavourable unclassified have been used in this first six year cycle to get around difficulties in identifying trends in condition as common standards monitoring is implemented. It is expected that these categories will not be used for subsequent assessments of a feature.

 

Condition assessment - Natura 2000 features

The number and proportion of assessments for Natura 2000 (SAC and SPA) interest features falling into each of the condition categories
The number and proportion of assessments for Natura 2000 (SAC and SPA) interest features falling into each of the condition categories. Note that the �unfavourable� category includes all reports of unfavourable condition except �unfavourable recovering� which is shown as a separate segment.
 

Condition assessment - SSSI features

The number and proportion of assessments for SSSI/ASSI interest features falling into each of the condition categories
The number and proportion of assessments for SSSI/ASSI interest features falling into each of the condition categories. Note that the �unfavourable� category includes all reports of unfavourable condition except �unfavourable recovering� which is shown as a separate segment.
 

Adverse activities

The number of interest features where an activity has been reported as being implicated in the "unfavourable" condition of a feature
The number of interest features where an activity has been reported as being implicated in the "unfavourable" condition of a feature. More than one adverse activity may be reported for each feature.
 

Management measures

The measures summary bar chart lists the management measures relevant to the reporting category
For each "measure" the chart shows the number of interest features where that measure has been taken on a site to improve or maintain the condition of an interest feature. More than one measure may be reported for each feature assessed.
 

Interpretation

52% of flowering plant and fern features reported are in favourable condition.  This is below the average for species features, and just below the average for all features combined.  53% of A/SSSI and 46% of SAC features reported are favourable; a further 14% of A/SSSI and 28% of SAC features are unfavourable-recovering.
 
These total figures mask a substantial difference in condition assessments for combinations of vascular plants as compared to single species interest features.  138 of the features reported are combinations (assemblages) of vascular plants and of these 44% are in favourable condition.  However, in comparison, 58% of the 186 single species interest features reported are in favourable condition.  This difference is due to the fact that all of the component species in the combination must be favourable for the combination feature to be classified as favourable.  Within the single species interest features are 20 orchid features, of which 65% are in favourable condition, and another 15% unfavourable-recovering.
 
Within the single species interest features it is also possible to separate out subsets of species that are nationally rare or scarce, or are given protection through listing on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.  Nationally scarce plants are defined as those which occur in 16-100 10km squares, nationally rare plants as those which occur in 15 or fewer 10km squares.  The nationally scarce plants reported are in better condition (64% favourable) than the nationally rare (49% favourable), though more of the rare plants are in unfavourable recovering condition (24% for nationally rare and 16% for nationally scarce).  Plants protected through Schedule 8 are reported as 53% favourable and 24% unfavourable-recovering.
 
There is reasonable coverage in the assessments on SACs of three Annex II species: fen orchid Liparis loeselii, slender naiad Najas flexilis, and marsh saxifrage Saxifraga hirculus.  The condition of Liparis and Saxifraga is of great concern: both of the Welsh fen orchid sites reported are unfavourable-declining, whilst two out of the three saxifrage sites are unfavourable.  Both plants also occur in England, where the features are listed as unfavourable.  Slender naiad appears to be doing better, with all three SAC features in favourable condition, although inland SSSI sites are unfavourable.
 
The most commonly recorded adverse activity for unfavourable features is over-grazing, with 34 assessments listing this as a problem.  It is likely that this is particularly a problem on large upland sites in Scotland.  Management agreements are seen as key to securing favourable condition.