Isles of Scilly IPA

Location: Off the Cornish coast, 25 miles south west of Land's End. They can be reached either by air or ferry from Penzance.

Grid Reference: SV 923 108


Isles of Scilly IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:

  • The species richness of bryophytes on coastal heath
  • The species richness of lichens on rock cliffs, ledges and shore: coastal rocks and temperate shrub heath: coastal rocks

  • About the Isles of Scilly

    The Isles of Scilly are an archipelago of approximately 200 granite islands around 25 miles (40 kilometres) south-west of Land’s End.

    The five inhabited islands, St Mary’s, Tresco , St Martin’s, Bryher , and St Agnes, constitute the majority of the land area: the exposed coastal cliffs and rock outcrops on the islands together with those on the smaller Annet, Gugh, Round Island, Samson, St Helen’s Tean and White Island support a wide range of plants, lichens and mosses.

    Particular attractions in the Scilly Isles are the dwarf pansy and the orange bird’s foot, which are found nowhere else in the United Kingdom. Other plants are more common here than on the mainland. Of considerable interest are the western ramping-fumitory and the Scilly buttercup as well as a wide variety of lichens, such as the rare gilt edged, golden hair and ciliate strap lichens.

    St Mary’s: around Old Town, cretan mallow may be found, particularly on field margins. In the south, around the freshwater lake, plants such as common reed, bulrush, soft rush, yellow iris, lesser spearwort, gypsy wort, water mint, hemlock water dropwort and ragged robin occur.

    The greater tussock sedge and southern marsh orchid have also been reported whilst the more acidic bog conditions support small populations of bog pimpernel, star sedge, marsh St John’s wort and marsh willowherb.

    Tresco: maritime heathland can be found on a large exposed, low lying area at Castle Down on the north side of the island. Here one may find amongst the heather, gorse bracken and bramble, orange bird’s foot as well as tormentil, common bird’s-foot-trefoil, heath bedstraw and English stonecrop. Thrift and buck’s horn plantain are more common on the coastal edge. In particular this area is important for the 45 species of lichen, including some rare oceanic heathland species.

    St Martin’s: high ground on Chapel Down supports considerable areas of heather, bell heather and western gorse, whereas bristle club-rush, heath-grass and marsh pennywort occur in the wetland at Coldwind Pit. There are some rare maritime lichen species, including Rocinella fusiformis to be found at St Martin’s Head.

    St Agnes: The maritime heathland is well known for a number of rare plants including the least adder’s-tongue and the bristle clubrush, as well as the orange bird’s foot. Autumn lady’s tresses are abundant. In nearby Gugh the coastal edge supports, in addition to sand sedge and Portland spurge, such rare species as early meadow grass, balm-leaved figwort and adder’s Tongue.

    Image: Isles of Scilly IPA © Sue Nottingham