Report on the Vascular Plant Red List for Ireland Published

A report published today by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs provides an assessment of how many of our plant species are under threat or at risk of extinction on the island of Ireland.

A total of 1,211 different plant species (1,047), species aggregates (4), subspecies (157) and hybrids (3) were assessed in the report, ranging from the largest trees to the smallest wild flowers, grasses and ferns.

“Red Lists” are a globally recognised assessment providing information on the degree to which species are under threat and at risk of extinction and, by implication, those for which conservation measures need to be considered.  The assessment is carried out along guidelines developed by the IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Vascular plants include ferns, clubmosses, horsetails and the whole range of flowering plants from grasses, sedges and rushes to herbaceous wildflowers and woody shrubs and trees.  The vascular plants assessed are those that are native to Ireland or were introduced to the island before the year 1500.  These comprise vascular plant species, subspecies and certain hybrids that are recorded from the wild.

Of the 1,211 vascular plants assessed, 106 (or 8.8%) are assigned an IUCN Red List threat category and are Ireland’s Red-listed plants.  20 vascular plants (or 1.7% of those assessed) are Critically Endangered, 25 (2.1%) are Endangered and 61 (5.0%) are Vulnerable.

The report was prepared by a collaborative group comprising the Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, the National Biodiversity Data Centre, Waterford, the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin, the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording of the National Museums Northern Ireland and the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland.

Since publication of the vascular plant Red Data Book nearly 30 years ago, Ireland has undergone considerable economic, social and cultural changes, which have affected, to a greater or lesser degree, the distribution, extent and quality of the semi-natural and other habitats that support its vascular plant flora.  By providing information on the risk of extinction, the Red List highlights those vascular plants for which conservation measures need to be considered.  Red-listed vascular plants occur in a wide variety of natural and semi-natural habitats, from grasslands to woodlands, limestone pavements, heaths, upland cliffs, rocks and screes.  They are also found in a range of aquatic and other wetland habitats – rivers, lakes, turloughs, ponds (including on the margins and flood zones of these water bodies), bogs, fens and flushes.  A significant number also occur in coastal habitats – sand dunes, shingle, cliffs, salt marshes and mud flats.  Several species grow in artificial habitats such as ditches, walls and sandpits, and in association with arable crops.

In addition to the 106 Red-listed taxa, 15 vascular plants (1.2%) are Extinct in Ireland.  Another 98 (8.1%) are considered to be Near Threatened, 887 (73.2%) are Least Concern and 105 (8.7%) are assigned, for a variety of reasons, to a Waiting List of taxa for which assessments could not be made.

Of the vascular plants considered, 18 are endemic – plants that are found only on the island of Ireland, notable amongst which are two types of whitebeam tree, several hawkweeds, a saxifrage and an orchid.  Including these endemics, Ireland is of international importance for 47 vascular plants for which it holds (or possibly holds) more than 25% of the European population – notable amongst there are several orchids, sea-lavenders and ferns, as well as a suite of species with predominantly North American distributions.

Sixty-eight vascular plants are currently protected in the Republic of Ireland and 69 are given special protection in Northern Ireland.  The report’s findings will contribute to reviews of the lists of these protected plants.

The Red List is a product of the significant dedication and unprecedented efforts of botanical recorders in Ireland over many years.  Their intensive field research, mostly carried out in a voluntary capacity, has resulted in many hundreds of thousands of records, including finds of rare species and charting of the unfortunate decline and loss of species.  The vascular plant Red List is also testament to cross-border co-operation.

Production of Red Lists is an action under Ireland’s National Biodiversity Plan.  This vascular plant red list is also one of Ireland’s Global Strategy for Plant Conservation targets.

Nine other Ireland Red Lists have been published since 2009, covering groups such as bryophytes (mosses and liverworts), butterflies, moths, water beetles and terrestrial mammals.


Wyse Jackson, M., FitzPatrick, Ú., Cole, E., Jebb, M., McFerran, D., Sheehy Skeffington, M. & Wright, M. (2016) Ireland Red List No. 10: Vascular Plants.  National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Dublin, Ireland.

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  • In the Republic of Ireland, 68 vascular plants are protected, under the Wildlife Acts (1976 and 2000), by the Flora (Protection) Order, 2015 (Statutory Instrument No. 365 of 2015).  The list of vascular plants in this Order is the same as that on the Flora (Protection) Order, 1999 (Statutory Instrument No. 94 of 1999).
  • In Northern Ireland, all wild plants are given a measure of protection under The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, but 69 species of vascular plant, listed on Schedule 8, Part 1, are given special protection.  68 vascular plant species are on the Northern Ireland Priority Species List, prepared under The Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.
  • Three vascular plants are given additional protection under the European Union’s Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora).  These are the Killarney Fern (Trichomanes speciosum), the Marsh Saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus) and the Slender Naiad (Najas flexilis).

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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