Monday, 27 March 2017

Welsh “Domesday Book” of plants is world’s first

Wales has just become the first country in the world to have a complete record of its rare flowering plants and ferns. BSBI's aim has been to compile a county-by-county register of every single rare plant species in every county in Britain and Ireland

We started on this project almost 40 years ago, and you can see how we're getting on in the map on the right and on this page. But the fact that Wales got there first is due in no small part to the help and support we've received from Natural Resources Wales (and its predecessor bodies) and from Andy Jones, Higher Plant Specialist at NRW and (of course) a longstanding BSBI member.

No such detailed account of a nation’s flora exists in any other country in the world and today this “Domesday Book” of the plant world will be celebrated at an event at Aberystwyth University, with presentations by BSBI Head of Science Dr Kevin Walker, BSBI Welsh Officer Dr Polly Spencer-Vellacott and of course Andy Jones. 

Polly said: "Wales came up with the idea of County Rare Plant Registers (RPRs) in Cardiganshire in 1978, and it has now spread to all parts of Britain and Ireland. But this is the first time that any country has achieved this kind of complete coverage and it’s wonderful that volunteers across Wales have done all this work.”

Purple saxifrage
Image: O. Duffy
People working in plant conservation can now identify sites for rare plants in all the counties in WalesOver the years the RPRs have progressed from hand-written lists through typescripts and spreadsheets to databases on home computers to, finally, a web-based picture of the rare plants for the whole of Wales.

During this time, the work of BSBI volunteers has been supported by grants and staff support from NRW and its predecessor organisations.

The Rare Plant Registers confirm that Wales has an extraordinary diversity of natural features. It shows that it’s possible, in plant terms, to walk from the Mediterranean to the Arctic - from golden samphire at Newborough on Anglesey to purple saxifrage on the Carneddau mountains in Snowdonia.

Polly & BSBI's bilingual banner
Image courtesy of
P. Spencer-Vellacott 
Dr Emyr Roberts, Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales, said: “NRW is proud to support such a monumental project. Over the years, we have provided funding for BSBI to continue this important work. While many of these rare plants are in decline, every single species plays an important role in the fabric of our natural environment - they are an important part of our environment, our identity and our economy. It is vital that we work to protect our wildlife and halt these declines. The register gives us comprehensive and accurate evidence, which in turn means that NRW can provide the best possible advice on rare plants and the issues that could affect them.”

Dr John Faulkner, BSBI President, said: "Completing the full set of county Rare Plant Registers for Wales is an important landmark. No other country has such a complete assessment of the state of its wild flowers. The authors and contributors are to be congratulated on this magnificent achievement.”

The county Rare Plant Registers for England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are online and can be viewed at http://bsbi.org/rare-plant-registers. For media contacts, the press release is here. So the only question now is: which country will be the second to have a complete set?