Vascular plants include flowering plants and ferns (and fern allies – e.g clubmosses). In terms of recording and studying, Stoneworts or Charophytes, have also been adopted by vascular plant botanists. Charophytes are complex green algae, most closely related to vascular plants.

Vascular plants are the corner stone of most terrestrial and freshwater habitats. Some are even marine, in the coastal waters of Wales Eelgrass / Zostera form dense beds in certain conditions.

90% of the land in Wales is farmed (Survey of agriculture and horticulture: June 2022 ( but within this broad framework there is a wide variety of habitats and intensity of farming.

Snowdon lily by Andrew Gagg: Plantlife

Montane, Ffridd and Bog
Our key montane habitats can be found in the Eryri mountain range in North Wales, with such iconic plants as Snowdon lily (Gagea serotina) and alpine mouse-ear (Cerastium alpinum). Moving down into Ffridd and common land with Welsh eyebright (Euphrasia cambrica) and ivy-leaved bellflower (Wahlenbergia hederacea). Down through lowland bogs with bog orchid (Hammarbya paludosa) and heathland with pale dog’s violet (Viola lactea).

In Wales We have some of the most diverse grasslands and these are home to some restricted species such as wavy St John ‘s-wort (Hypericum undulatum) in the west and on dryer, droughted grasslands in the east, species such as shepherds’ cress (Teesdalia nudicaulis) and upright chickweed (Moenchia erecta). In some of our limestone grasslands near the coast you can see clustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata) and tuberous thistle (Cirsium tuberosum) in the south, and in the north, you can see dark red helleborine (Epipactis atrorubens) and spotted cat’s-ear (Hypochaeris maculata).

Woodlands of all shapes, sizes and types are found throughout Wales. In some of the temperate rainforests in North and mid Wales, ferns thrive in humid ravines such as Wilsons and Tunbridge filmy fern (Hymenophyllum wilsonii & H. tunbridgense.) and hay-scented buckler fern (Dryopteris aemula). In the lowland South some of the ash woods can have a rich ground flower with for example, herb-Paris (Paris quadrifolia) and goldilocks buttercup (Ranunculus auricomus). So often species that are found in the zonation between broad habitats have declined as these areas diminish with the strict compartmentalisation of the countryside. For instance, spreading bellflower (Campanula patula) likes that mix of woodland edge with grassland and green lane where larger grazing animals would occasionally trundle about and disturb the ground.

Wales has an extensive coastline with sea cliffs, shingle, sand dunes and saltmarsh all represented. Many of our dune systems in Wales are internationally important and some of these in South Wales are home to the coastal variety of fen orchid (Liparis loeselii var. ovata), a species whose fortunes have declined in the recent past, but now that trend seems to have reversed, mostly due to targeted interventions and management. Dune gentian (Gentianella amarella subsp. occidentalis) is also found on the edge of dune slacks in a few of the South Wales dune systems. Important saltmarsh sites are found throughout the coast of Wales with the Severn Estuary and Burry Inlet in the South, Dyfi, Mawddach and Drwyd estuaries in Mid & Northwest Wales, and the Dee in Northeast Wales. In the Drwydd and Mawddach dwarf spike-rush (Elecoharis parvula) can be found, probably the biggest populations in Wales and GB of this very restricted species. In the south, the Severn Estuary saltmarsh is one of the few stretches where sea barley (Hordeum marinum) can be seen in recent years.

Some habitats experience more regular, and sometimes what is perceived as, more dramatic management, such as ploughing or other forms of cultivation. Organisations involved with conservation have traditionally not valued these arable habitats, but this is changing. A high percentage of our most threatened flowering plants are found in arable situations such as small-flowered catchfly (Silene gallica) and shepherd’s needle (Scandix pecten-veneris). Post industrial or previously developed land (often termed brownfield) can also be botanically diverse and provide home for some declining species such as basil thyme (Clinopodium acinos). Coal spoil is also included here and in South Wales many of these spoil heaps are home to small cudweed (Logfia minima), a species otherwise restricted to parched grassland near the coast.

Bog orchid (Hammarbya paludosa) by Julian-Woodman


Wales has some fine lakes and upland tarns where you might find quillworts (Isoetes sp.), water lobelia (Lobelia dortmanna) and pondweeds (Potamogeton sp.). Of significance in a GB and world context are the populations of floating water-plantain (Luronium natans). One of the larger populations of this species is in the Montgomery canal. The rivers in Wales often start off as fast-flowing, gorge rivers passing through steep, humid, wooded valleys. Here filmy ferns can be found amongst some other ferns and bryophytes that like the humid atmosphere. Lower down these rivers, such as the Wye and Usk are slower flowing and meandering. Here river shingle and sandy/ muddy bank sides can also be home to the threatened tasteless waterpepper (Persicaria mitis). The network of reens on the Gwent Levels are important for aquatic life, hairlike pondweed (Potamogeton trichoides) and greater duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza) have their Welsh headquarters here, amongst a variety of other aquatic plants.

The table below shows that in Wales we have 72% of the total No. of species found in Britain (Walker 2023). The full results from the Atlas 2020 project can be viewed online (see Online Atlas 2020 link) and here you can view long term (1930 – 2019) and short term (1987 – 2019) trends.

The number of native and introduced species recorded during fieldwork for Plant Atlas 2020 (2000–2019) in Britain compared with England, Wales and Scotland. (Walker et al. 2023)










Introduced - archeophyte





Introduced - neophyte










Many of the top 25 species with the strongest increases over the long-term in Wales are neophytes such as conifers from plantations such as Sitka Spruce or garden escapes such as dotted loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata). With the short-term trend, many are garden escapes again such as Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria Formosa) or fringe-cups (Tellima grandiflora). Conversely most of the long term and short-term species with the strongest declines are native or archeophyte species such as sheeps-bit scabious (Jasione montana) and field woundwort (Stachys arvensis).

Vascular plant conservation in Wales




Number of individual species features



Total number of protected sites with vascular plant features



There are currently 88 species of vascular plant on the S7 list of species of principle importance in Wales. Including downy hemp-nettle (Galeopsis segetum) which although extinct in Wales since 1975, there is a wish to revive it from the seed bank.

Red listing: Species numbers of each threat category occurring in Wales as of 2023 (including Hieracium species but not Rubus or Taraxacum complex groups). Refs: Wales Red list, Dines 2008 and GB red list 2021 (BSBI website). Not including hybrids or recently extirpated species.

Red List GB

Red List Wales

Critically Endangered







74 89

Some of the numbers above may not tally if somebody else attempted a basic or straightforward, uninterpreted search. I have excluded species that are considered introductions to the Welsh flora and those that have recently become extinct or extirpated such as Daphne mezereum.

Vascular plant recording in Wales

There is a long history of recording flowering plants in Wales and more widely in Great Britain with such eminent names as John Ray & Edward Lhwyd in the 17th Century; Augustin Ley and John Griffiths in the 19th Century moving onto Eleanor Vachell and Mary Gilham later on. Around the lter years of the 19th Century the Botanical Exchange Club of Britain and Ireland was created and botanical recording really started in earnest. Later this became the Botanical Society of the British Isles and more recently The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI). There have been three national atlases of Britain and Ireland, the most recent for the Atlas 2020 (see link below).

Many of the vice counties have modern County Floras most recently Monmouthshire and Cardiganshire. Another resource is the Vice County Rare Plant Registers (RPR’s) many of which can be downloaded or requested from the county pages through here Wales – Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (

Today it is easy to join in searching and recording plants. Britain and Ireland are split up into Vice Counties and in Wales there are 13 (Glamorgan split into East & West), each has honorary recorders some more than one. See the Local Botany – Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland ( for details. Many have local botany groups that have regular meetings and excursion plans can be found in the above link for each VC page. The BSBI also organise day field meetings and longer residential meetings see Field meetings and indoor events – Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland ( and Wales Annual Meeting & AGM – Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (

There are four local record centres in Wales and these also are an excellent way to get involved with recording and learning about vascular plants and other groups. They also provide an useful resource with recording vascular plants and these record centres often link in with the BSBI Vice County recorders.

Vascular plant records should be sent your local Vice County recorder or Local record Centre.

Natur am Byth

This is a flagship species recovery programme. Delivery started in 2023 and will run till 2027, in 11 project areas on land and sea. Within the terrestrial project areas 23 of the target species are vascular plants or charophytes.

Antenarria dioica female: Julian Woodman

Fen Orchid at Kenfig by Clive Hurford

Goldilocks buttercup by Julian-Woodman

Campanula patula by Julian Woodman

Dune Gentian by Clive Hurford

Hordeum marinum by Julian-Woodman

Herb Paris by Julian-Woodman

Shepherds needle by Julian Woodman

Pale Dog-violet (Viola lactea) by Julian Woodman


Julian Woodman: Vascular plant specialist, Natural Resources Wales


Species in Wales

Amphibians & Reptiles



Terrestrial Mammals



Helping Wildlife

Wildlife Gardening