Hampshire Rare Plant Register

What is a Rare Plant Register?

At its simplest, a Rare Plant Register is an inventory of the sites and records for rare plants in an area. The BSBI is encouraging each of its local recorders to produce a register for the area (usually a county or part of a county) for which they keep the records.

Although they follow a broadly similar scheme, they vary a lot in detail. Some provide a very detailed historical account. Some describe the ecology and biology of the plants in a region. Some are much more explicit than others in publishing the localities of plants.

Ours was published in December 2011, and our neighbours in Dorset, Sussex and Wiltshire have previously published printed Registers. In Berkshire, Mick Crawley has abstracted the relevant taxa from his new County Flora to publish his electronically. Surrey is working on producing theirs.

Why do we need Rare Plant Registers?

Britain is an incredibly well-botanized part of the world, with a wealth of books and publications on the geography of its flora. Big projects like the "New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora" tell us about the status and national distribution of our plants. County floras often give excellent accounts of smaller regions.

Yet there is still a need for a detailed, precise, up to date account of the rare and scarce plants found in an area. These are often the plants that give it a distinctive character or act as 'markers' for good wildlife habitat. Sometimes they are those most at risk from human activities and other changes. National atlases give a broad picture; county Floras appear infrequently, and much of the information they present can be decades old. Limitations of space often prevent them giving a comprehensive gazeteer for all plants of concern.

Researchers studying and monitoring plant populations need to know exactly where they have been found in the past. Conservationists and land managers should know precisely where plants occur. It's shocking to see how many sites for known rarities are damaged or destroyed unwittingly because the person "on the ground" wasn't aware of their presence.

©Martin Rand 2005

In the past there has been much debate over whether it's better to keep rare plant sites secret, to prevent them being damaged by the greedy, malicious or stupid; or whether they should be known as widely as possible. In the last couple of decades the balance has swung towards greater openness. It's true that there are plants (such as some orchids) that attract the attention of rapacious collectors. And there are sites where the pressure of visitors would be damaging, or would jeopardize good relations with sympathetic landowners. For this reason, there will be some records whose details are not generally published. However, a much greater danger to the plants comes not from the thoughtless collectors or 'twitchers'. It stems from the range of human activities that incidentally destroys and degrades plant habitats in our crowded islands. Precise knowledge of the whereabouts and status of plant species will help those with an interest in maintaining our natural heritage.

What's Happening in Hampshire?

©Martin Rand 2005

We are currently working on a project covering the whole of Hampshire. This embraces not only the rare species of the Rare Plant Register, but also a much longer list of scarce and declining plants, and those for which Hampshire has special conservation responsibility. Collectively we call these the 'Hampshire Notables'.

The project to document the Hampshire Notables is a collaboration between the BSBI, The Hampshire Wildlife Trust, The Hampshire Flora Group and the Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre. It has financial support from Hampshire County Council's Environment Department and many other bodies.

The full project will continue through the years, but we have started with the Rare Plant Register species, these being the rarest nationally or locally. This is now presented as a published book covering the strict 'Rare Plant Register' species. A flyer and form for ordering from Summerfield Books is available by clicking here.

This web site will then be the vehicle for publishing additions, updates and corrections. This will go on year by year as material becomes available, and will result in new and reworked full versions of individual species accounts, downloadable as PDF files. Expect to see a major reorganisation of this part of the site during 2012, as we prepare to make new accounts available.

Can I join in?

You certainly can! We still need to check up on old records and sites where the details are vague or dubious, or simply bring them up to date.

The Hampshire Rare Plant Register Project is supported financially by Hampshire County Council Environment Department, and by the following organisations:
Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council; East Hampshire District Council; Eastleigh Borough Council; English Nature; Environment Agency; Gosport Borough Council; Hampshire Wildlife Trust; Hart District Council; Havant Borough Council; New Forest District Council; New Forest National Park Authority; Southampton City Council; South Downs National Park Authority; Southern Water; Test Valley Borough Council