Threatened Plants in Ireland

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Endangered plants in Ireland

Ireland has a relatively small number of native species of flowering plants (850). Over the recent past many of these species have declined in numbers and have even disappeared in parts of the country. There are various reasons for this, including changing agricultural practices, mowing of roadside verges, drainage schemes, overgrazing, housing developments and the expanding numbers of golf courses.

While picking wild flowers has been a traditional pastime, we are now aware of the risks that it poses. It has certainly been a factor in the decline of certain species such as the Killarney Fern (Trichomanes speciosum), which suffered from collecting during the Victorian era. Even common species such as Bluebells are now threatened by over-picking. Picking flowers should not be encouraged, instead please leave them for others to enjoy. Plants in Nature Reserves and National Parks are protected and should never be picked. Our rarest species are protected under the 1999 Flora Protection Order, which also includes, for the first time, a number of mosses, liverworts, lichens and algae.

The conservation of these plants must be achieved by protecting their habitats, since these plants do not occur in isolation, but as part of a living biological community. In conserving these habitats it is necessary to continue particular management strategies, often involving the maintenance of traditional farming practices. Outside these areas it is important to maintain features of the landscape that serve as refuges for wild plants, such as hedgerows, ponds and roadside verges.

Many pest species of plant have arrived in Ireland over the centuries, such as Rhododendron (which threatens the Killarney Oakwoods) and Giant hogweed, which is a nuisance along waterways in the east of the country. Care should be taken to avoid the introduction of any exotic plant species into the wild. The use of ‘wild flower seed’ should also be avoided as many of this is sourced from outside the country, and when this seed interbreeds with native strains this can result in a loss of diversity. Only Irish sourced wild seed mixtures should be used.

Saving our Flora

The National Botanic Gardens is taking positive steps to counter the loss of plants in Ireland. Today we estimate that some 120 species are threatened in the country, of which six are on the verge of extinction without our help. The Botanic Gardens has now established an Irish Threatened Plant Species Conservation Programme, and will begin research on cultivating many of the threatened species in order to build both expertise and knowledge of growing these species. We intend to focus on a dozen of the most threatened native Irish species over the next six years.

The Botanic Gardens acts as the focal point for a strategic plan to conserve Ireland’s plants and fungi. A set of sixteen targets has been drawn up, that we hope to achieve by 2010. Some of the actions will include the management and restoration of populations where this is feasible. We hope to establish practical solutions through, case studies, and experience that will allow for long term, sustainable plant conservation in the country.

The Red Data List of Irish Plants

The risks that species face are each very different, however, as a guide to the susceptibility of a given species, an agreed set of catgegories has been established internationally, and these are used to determine the potential risk that a species could become extinct. These categories are:-

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED or CR - Species that are declining at a fast rate, and face imminent risk of extinction.

ENDANGERED or E - Species that are declining, or grow in habitats likely to be disturbed, 'developed' or facing an ongoing degradation.

VULNERABLE or V - Species that are currently not endangered, but would be extremely vulnerable if their habitats are disturbed in the future.

There are seven species of plant that require immediate intervention (CR) if we are to save them from joining the fate of 11 other species that are now known to be extinct in Ireland.

A number of these are already extinct in the Republic, and are not therefore legally protected under the 1999 Flora Protection Act.

In the list below, 188 species of plant are listed, of which 64 are flowering plants, 4 ferns, 14 mosses, 4 liverworts, 1 lichen and 2 algae.

Protected=1999 Flora Protection Order; (protected)= formerly protected by 1987 Order;
{protected}= formerly protected by 1980 Order; (NI)= protected in Northern Ireland only.

Pheasant's-eye Adonis annua --
Corncockle Agrostemma githago Cogal
Corn Chamomile Anthemis arvensis Fíogadán goirt
Purple Spurge Euphorbia peplis Spuirse dhearg
Sea Stock Matthiola sinuata Tonóg chladaigh
Shepherd's-needle Scandix pecten-veneris Gob an ghoirt
Rannoch-rush Scheuchzeria palustris Luachair an Phollaigh
Saw-wort Serratula tinctoria Sábhlus

Club Sedge Carex buxbaumii Cíb ghorm
Scaly Buckler-fern Dryopteris remota --

Divided Sedge Carex divisa Cíb ghabhlach Protected
Meadow Saffron Colchicum autumnale Cróch an fhómhair Protected
Serrated Wintergreen Orthilia secunda Glasluibh fhiaclach (NI)
Cottonweed Otanthus maritimus Cluasach mhara Protected
Rough Poppy Papaver hybridum Bláth na mbodach Protected
Meadow Saxifrage Saxifraga granulata Mórán léana Protected
Marsh Saxifrage Saxifraga hirculus Mórán réisc Protected

Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina Moscadal
Narrow Small-reed Calamagrostis stricta Giolc beag (NI)
Nettle-leaved Bellflower Campanula trachelium Scornlus (protected)
Few-flowered Sedge Carex pauciflora Cíb scáinte (NI)
Cornflower Centaurea cyanus Gormán
Seaside Centaury Centaurium littorale Dréimire trá (NI)
Lesser Centaury Centaurium pulchellum Dréimire beag Protected
Narrow-leaved Helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia Cuaichín caol Protected
Bog Hair-grass Deschampsia setacea Móinfhéar seascainn Protected
Dwarf Spike-rush Eleocharis parvula Spícíneach bheag (NI)
Green-flowered Helleborine Epipactis phyllanthes Cuaichín glas (NI)
Dorset Heath Erica ciliaris Fraoch frainseach (protected)
Cornish Heath Erica vagans Fraoch gallda (NI)
Blue Fleabane Erigeron acer Lus gorm na ndreancaidí (NI)
Slender Cottongrass Eriophorum gracile Ceannbhán caol Protected
Red Hemp-nettle Galeopsis angustifolia Ga corcra Protected
Little-Robin Geranium purpureum Eireaball rí {protected}
Round-leaved Crane's-bill Geranium rotundifolium Crobh cruinn
Wood Crane's-bill Geranium sylvaticum Crobh coille
Opposite-leaved Pondweed Groenlandia densa Líobhógach dlúth Protected
Oak Fern Gymnocarpium dryopteris Raithneach dharach
Limestone Fern Gymnocarpium robertianum Raithneach aolchloiche Protected
Bog Orchid Hammarbya paludosa Magairlín na móna Protected
Meadow Barley Hordeum secalinum Eorna mhóinéir Protected
Hydrilla Hydrilla verticillata Ilphéistein fáinneach Protected
Hairy St John's-wort Hypericum hirsutum Lus an fhógra Protected
Irish Fleabane Inula salicina Lus gréine gaelach Protected
Sharp-leaved Fluellen Kickxia elatine Buaflíon Breatnach (protected)
Darnel Lolium temulentum Roille
Small Cow-wheat Melampyrum sylvaticum Lus sagairt beag
Pennyroyal Mentha pulegium Borógach Protected
Weasel's-snout Misopates orontium Srubh lao beag Protected
Slender Naiad Najas flexilis Síofróg uisce Protected
Green-winged Orchid Orchis morio Magairlín féitheach (protected)
Pillwort Pilularia globulifera Lus an phiollaire Protected
Small-white Orchid Pseudorchis albida Magairlín bán Protected
Round-leaved Wintergreen Pyrola rotundifolia subsp. maritima Glasluibh chruinn Protected
Cloudberry Rubus chamaemorus Eithreog shléibhe (NI)
Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis Lus an uille mór Protected
Perennial Glasswort Sarcocornia perennis Lus gloine buan Protected
Triangular Club-rush Schoenoplectus triqueter Bogshifín tríchúinneach Protected
Green Figwort Scrophularia umbrosa Donnlus glas
Kerry Lily Simethis planifolia Lile Fhíonáin Protected
Irish Lady's-tresses Spiranthes romanzoffiana Cúilín gaelach Protected
Betony Stachys officinalis Lus beatha Protected
Killarney Fern Trichomanes speciosum Raithneach Chill Airne Protected
Clustered Clover Trifolium glomeratum Seamair chlibíneach Protected
Subterranean Clover Trifolium subterraneum Seamair faoi thalamh Protected
Globeflower Trollius europaeus Leolach Protected
Hairy Violet Viola hirta Sailchuach ghiobach Protected
Pale Dog-violet Viola lactea Sailchuach liath Protected

Pyramidal Bugle Ajuga pyramidalis Glasair bheannach (NI)
Alpine Lady's-mantle Alchemilla alpina Bratóg Mhuire
Chives Allium schoenoprasum Síobhas Protected
Fringed Sandwort Arenaria ciliata Gaineamhlus gaelach Protected
Arctic Sandwort Arenaria norvegica subsp. norvegica Gaineamhlus Artach
Wild Asparagus Asparagus officinalis subsp. prostratus Lus súgach Protected
Forked Spleenwort Asplenium septentrionale Fionncha ladhrach Protected
Purple Milk-vetch Astragalus danicus Bleachtphiseán Protected
Smooth Brome Bromus racemosus Brómas mín
Wood Small-reed Calamagrostis epigejos Giolc Protected
Short-leaved Water-starwort Callitriche truncata Réiltín scoite Protected
Large Bitter-cress Cardamine amara Seilín cuaiche
Narrow-leaved Bitter-cress Cardamine impatiens Searbh-bhiolar caol Protected
Starved Wood-sedge Carex depauperata Cíb choille bhocht Protected
Tall Bog-sedge Carex magellanica Cíb bhocht (NI)
Melancholy Thistle Cirsium heterophyllum Cluasán fia (NI)
Parsley Fern Cryptogramma crispa Raithneach chas Protected
Hoary Whitlowgrass Draba incana Araflasach
Eight-stamened Waterwort Elatine hydropiper Bosán te (NI)
Chickweed Willowherb Epilobium alsinifolium Saileachán sléibhe Protected
Shade Horsetail Equisetum pratense Scuab eich mhóinéir
Mackay's Heath Erica mackaiana Fraoch Mhic Aoidh
Dropwort Filipendula vulgaris Lus braonach
Alder Buckthorn Frangula alnus Draighean fearna (NI)
Heath Cudweed Gnaphalium sylvaticum Gnamhlus móna Protected
Common Rock-rose Helianthemum nummularium Grianrós Protected
Hoary rock-rose Helianthemum oelandicum subsp. piloselloides Grianrós liath {protected}
Holy-grass Hierochloe odorata Féar Muire (NI)
Water-violet Hottonia palustris Cleiteán uisce (NI)
Henbane Hyoscyamus niger Gafann
Irish St John's-wort Hypericum canadense Beathnua gaelach Protected
Round-fruited Rush Juncus compressus Luachair chruinn
Yellow Archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. montanum Neantóg Mhuire
Scots Lovage Ligusticum scoticum Sunais
Mudwort Limosella aquatica Lus lathaí Protected
Hairy Bird's-foot-trefoil Lotus subbiflorus Crobh éin mosach Protected
Marsh Clubmoss Lycopodiella inundata Garbhógach chorraigh Protected
Oysterplant Mertensia maritima Lus na sceallaí Protected
Recurved Sandwort Minuartia recurva Gaineamhlus cuar Protected
Yellow Bird's-nest Monotropa hypopitys Buíán sailí
Corky-fruited Water-dropwort Oenanthe pimpinelloides Dathabha ainíse (protected)
Bird's-foot Ornithopus perpusillus Crúba éin (protected)
Greater Broomrape Orobanche rapum-genistae Múchóg chapaill {protected}
Alpine Meadow-grass Poa alpina Cuisce Alpach {protected}
Swamp Meadow-grass Poa palustris Cuise réisc
Sea Knotgrass Polygonum maritimum Glúineach mhara (protected)
Holly-fern Polystichum lonchitis Ibheag dheilgneach (NI)
Shrubby Cinquefoil Potentilla fruticosa Tor cúigmhéarach
Borrer's Saltmarsh-grass Puccinellia fasciculata Féar muirisce triopallach Protected
Intermediate Wintergreen Pyrola media Glasluibh bheag
Round-leaved Wintergreen Pyrola rotundifolia subsp. rotundifolia Glasluibh chruinn
River Water-crowfoot Ranunculus fluitans Néal uisce abhann (NI)
Three-lobed Crowfoot Ranunculus tripartitus Néal uisce na dtrí chluas (protected)
Northern Yellow-cress Rorippa islandica Biolar buí na Boirne {protected}
Golden Dock Rumex maritimus Copóg bhuí
Tea-leaved Willow Salix phylicifolia Saileacha ghaelach {protected}
Wild Clary Salvia verbenaca Tormán {protected}
Alpine Saw-wort Saussurea alpina Sábhlus sléibhe (NI)
Yellow Saxifrage Saxifraga aizoides Mórán buí (NI)
Alpine Saxifrage Saxifraga nivalis Mórán an tsneachta Protected
Purple Saxifrage Saxifraga oppositifolia Mórán sléibhe (NI)
Hart's saxifrage Saxifraga hartii Mórán creige Protected
Cornish Moneywort Sibthorpia europaea Pinguin Dhuibhneach
Moss Campion Silene acaulis Coireán caonaigh (NI)
Dandelion Taraxacum gotlandicum Caisearbhán {protected}
Shepherd's Cress Teesdalia nudicaulis Lus an bhuachalla (NI)
Spotted Rock-rose Tuberaria guttata Grianrós breac
Spring Vetch Vicia lathyroides Peasair earraigh
Fen Violet Viola persicifolia Sailchuach uisce (NI)

Data Deficient Species
Orange Foxtail Alopecurus aequalis -- Protected
Northern Rock-cress Arabis petraea Gas caillí Artach Protected
Lanceolate Spleenwort Asplenium obovatum Fionncha lansach Protected
Basil Thyme Clinopodium acinos Lus mhic rhí Breatan Protected
Moore's horsetail Equisetum hyemale × ramosissimum = E. × moorei Scuab eich an Mhóraigh Protected
Small Cudweed Filago minima Cáithluibh bheag Protected
Wood Barley Hordelymus europaeus Eorna choille
Smooth Cat's-ear Hypochaeris glabra Cluas chait mhín (NI)
Sea Pea Lathyrus japonicus Peasairín trá Protected
Tall Rock Sea-lavender Limonium procerum Lus liath ard
Rock Sea-lavender Limonium recurvum subsp. paradoxum Lus liath Albanach {protected}
Rock Sea-lavender Limonium recurvum subsp. portlandicum Lus liath aille
Western Sea-lavender Limonium recurvum subsp. pseudotranswallianum Lus liath na Boirne {protected}
Alpine Bistort Persicaria vivipara Glúineach shléibhe Protected
Annual Knawel Scleranthus annuus Cabhair Mhuire Protected
Wood Bitter-vetch Vicia orobus Peasair shearbh Protected

Species not considered threatened in the Republic, but protected in NI
Bog-rosemary Andromeda polifolia Lus na móinte (NI)
Elongated Sedge Carex elongata Cíb ard
Sea-kale Crambe maritima Praiseach thrá {protected}
Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza traunsteineri Magairlín caol (NI)
Mountain Avens Dryas octopetala Leaithín (NI)
Marsh Helleborine Epipactis palustris Cuaichín corraigh (NI)
Marsh Pea Lathyrus palustris Peasairín corraigh (NI)
Rock Sea-lavender Limonium binervosum agg. Lus liath aille (NI)
Bird's-nest Orchid Neottia nidus-avis Magairlín neide éin
Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera Magairlín na mbeach (NI)
Ivy Broomrape Orobanche hederae Múchóg mhór
Cowslip Primula veris Bainne bó bleachtáin (NI)
Bird Cherry Prunus padus Donnroisc
Blue-eyed-grass Sisyrinchium bermudiana Feilistrín gorm (NI)

Bryum calophyllum Protected
Bryum marratii Protected
Catoscopium nigritum Protected
Hamatocaulis vernicosus Protected
Leptobarbula berica Protected
Orthotrichum pallens Protected
Orthotrichum sprucei Protected
Orthotrichum stramineum Protected
Paludella squarrosa Protected
Tetraplodon angustatus Protected
Tortella inclinata Protected
Tortula wilsonii Protected
Weissia longifolia Protected
Weissia rostellata Protected

Leiocolea gillmanii Protected
Leiocolea rutheana Protected
Petalophyllum ralfsii Protected
Plagiochila atlantica Protected

Fulgensia fulgens Protected

Lamprothamnium papulosum Protected
Nitella gracilis Protected

Information on rare bryophytes in Ireland is contained here:-

A.B.G. Averis and N.F.Stewart, 1995, Important Areas for Bryophyte Diversity in Ireland. Red data book of European bryophytes, European committee for Conservation of Bryophytes, Trondheim.