Come and be part of a global voice for wild plants and fungi
This autumn, help us find the Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
Plantlife’s Big Give Christmas Challenge 28 Nov- 5 Dec, make a positive impact in protecting remarkable lichens.
Go the extra mile and run wild for Plantlife
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Our Global Advocacy Coordinator, Claire Rumsey, will be at COP28 to speak up for the vital role of wild plants and fungi in the fight against climate change.
As I pack my bags and head off to Dubai, I wanted to share a few thoughts about what’s at stake at the climate COP and what role Plantlife can play at this huge global event. So, what is COP 28?
It’s the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Given the urgency of tackling climate change, these meetings of the world’s governments happen every year; two years ago, COP26 was hosted by the UK in Glasgow.
This COP will be a pivotal moment for the planet and people around the world will be watching closely. At the conference, the first Global Stocktake will take place – this is where Parties will report on their progress towards slashing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (also known as the Paris Agreement, adopted back in 2016).
We already know that progress needs to go faster and further – we are currently heading for about 2.5°C of warming by 2100, even if current pledges to tackle emissions are achieved. So, at COP28 we need to see governments commit to taking more action to cut emissions – and fast.
Alongside that, we’re calling for the framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation to be finalised with references to nature and the vital role it will play in ensuring we adapt to the impacts of climate change.
We’re calling for the framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation to be finalised with references to nature and the vital role it will play in ensuring we adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Well, the first reason is that climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the greatest challenges we’re facing globally, and they are intrinsically linked. There is simply no way to look at one crisis without considering the other.
Wild plants and fungi underpin all life on earth, they provide us with oxygen, food and fibres for our clothes, fuel, medicines and building materials. But on top of all of that, they are also a powerful force to tackle climate change; much of Plantlife’s work focuses on securing recognition of this. For example:
Despite all the incredible work that is being done worldwide to reduce biodiversity loss and the impacts of climate change, it is thought by experts that we are currently in the 6th mass extinction. Latest estimates show that 45 % of flowering plant species could be at risk of extinction. Plant species are going extinct 500 times faster than they would be without the impacts of human activities – and faster than we can describe and name them.
This is the same for fungi, which can be directly affected by shifts in temperature and moisture levels. The overwhelming majority of fungal diversity is directly dependant on plants– whether as beneficial partners, decomposers or parasites – climate-related habitat change that harms plants in turn affects their co-existing fungi.
COP 28 is naturally facing some controversy, and people are understandably voicing concerns about how much will be achieved.
As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “It’s time to wake up and step up.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
We’re at a pivotal moment worldwide as to whether we will meet the Paris Agreement and we need a global commitment to ‘phase out’ not just ‘phase back’ fossil fuel production; otherwise, the outcomes of this COP may not be strong or ambitious enough to see us reach the 1.5°C goal in time.
Armed with the overwhelming scientific evidence about the critical role that wild plants and fungi can play in climate action, we’ll be speaking up at COP28 in person and online. We’ll be joining forces with partners from around the world to fight for urgent and ambitious action on nature and climate together.
For more than thirty years, Plantlife has spoken up for wild plants and fungi; making our voice heard at a global level has never been more important. We will continue to do all that we can to ensure that wild plants and fungi stay at the forefront of governments’ minds when making commitments for climate mitigation, adaptation, and building resilience.
We’re on a mission to raise awareness of how important wild plants and fungi are to life and to inspire more people to take action to help them thrive again and I hope you’ll follow our updates for how the meeting goes, here and on our social media channels!
How Plantlife is moving one of the most endangered wildflowers in Europe off the Red Data list for Great Britain.
The Fen Orchid Liparis loeselii, is one of the most endangered wildflowers in Europe, but successful conservation efforts have given hope for its survival. The orchid is only found in two areas of the UK:
We believe that the orchid could finally be removed from the Red Lists for both England and Great Britain.
After a decade of research and partnership work, the orchid has been re-discovered at former sites in the Broads, and the total population has estimated to have risen to over 15,000 plants through proper management.
The orchid has also been reintroduced to its former sites in Suffolk, and the signs are encouraging that it will become established in some of its old homes.
In South Wales, the conservation effort to restore the fragile dune habitat at Kenfig and to rediscover the plant at former dune locations.
At Kenfig numbers had dropped from a conservative 21,000 at the end of the 1980s to just 400 when conservation work began.
After almost 10 years of work, over 4000 Fen Orchids have been counted, more than double the highest number seen in the last two decades.
The orchids once grew at eight dune sites along the south Wales coast, but a lack of active management led to their disappearance. The success at Kenfig gives hope for other dune sites like Whiteford and Pembrey, the former of which the plant has recently been re-found after searching.
Chris Jones, the Warden of Kenfig National Nature Reserve, recently found the very rare fungus, during a routine survey.
Plantlife and WWF study on grassland demonstrate how wild plants and fungi are at the heart of climate crisis. Calling world governments to recognise sites for wild plants and fungi
The effort Greena Moor Nature Reserve management team put in place to save the Three-lobed Water Crowfoot.
Throughout July, Plantlife is participating in Reverse the Red – Plants Month
Reverse the Red is a global movement aimed at raising awareness of the work being done to reverse the trend of biodiversity loss and ensuring the survival of wild species and ecosystems.
The initiative brings together a coalition of scientists, advocates, and partners who use data-driven and science-based approaches to plan and act for species conservation.
The movement acknowledges and celebrates the efforts of organisations, communities, and people in protecting and restoring endangered species listed on a Red List, with the goal of reducing their vulnerability and eventually removing them from the list. Reverse the Red Website
Red lists are a globally recognised way of listing and identifying the threat of extinction to species. Species are being assessed objectively based on ongoing scientific information and ongoing research.
The world’s most comprehensive list is the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of threatened species. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There are other more localised red lists, such as the Great British Red List.
Discover some of the threatened species that we are working on and plan to protect and restore.
You can also learn about who are we are doing this with, as all the best effort in this world are done in collaboration and in partnership.
Image displayed are Plantlife plant survey at Munsary Peatlands Nature Reserve a part of Caithness & Sutherland Peatlands IPA Important Plant Area.
Some of our plants in Wales are threatened by extinction, but here are 3 species that are being brought back from the brink of extinction.
Did you know some of our plants are threatened by extinction? Here are 3 species that are endangered in Scotland and the work that’s being done to bring them back.
Calling governments around the world to recognise the importance of plants and fungi biodiversity for the planet.
In December 2022 countries, organisations, and people from around the world gathered in Montreal to see a new global agreement to protect and restore biodiversity adopted at CoP 15.
Plantlife along with Royal Botanic Gardens Kew were there to ensure that plants and fungi were not forgotten. From our joint exhibition stand we spoke passionately to governments, NGOs, research organisations members of Youth Groups and Indigenous communities about the value of wild plants and fungi, and the need to maintain and preserve their extraordinary diversity worldwide.
On the 9 December 2022, we held a side event on Important Plant Areas-a tool for implementing the Global Biodiversity Framework (which you can watch here: Important Plant Areas- a tool for Implementing the Global Biodiversity Framework (CoP15 side event) – YouTube). Important Plant Areas are an invaluable tool for helping to tackle the ecological, climate and societal crises we are currently facing.
We know that life on earth depends on its extraordinary diversity of plants and fungi, yet two in every five wild plants are threatened with extinction.
Plantlife has been working with partners over the past twenty years to make sure that plant conservation is given priority within global biodiversity agreements. In 2002, this led to the United Nations CBD adopting a Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), which was updated 10 years later. We helped establish the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation and coordinated the Important Plant Areas programme – an important tool for achieving Target 5 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation – to protect and manage at least 75 per cent of the most important areas for plant diversity of each ecological region.
The impact of the GSPC and the ongoing importance of specific plant conservation actions was recognised when in Decision 15/5 the Monitoring Framework for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework the CBD Secretariat:
“Invites the Global Partnership on Plant Conservation, with the support of the Secretariat and subject to the availability of resources, to prepare a set of complementary actions related to plant conservation to support the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and other relevant decisions adopted at the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, aligned with the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and also based on previous experiences with the implementation of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation as described in the fifth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook1 and the 2020 Plant Conservation Report,2 for consideration by the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice.”
Plantlife is now working closely with members of the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation to establish this set of complementary actions.
Downland and read our Cop15 Briefing Document
IPAs are key sites for exceptional botanical richness; rare, threatened and socio-economically valuable plant species; and rare and threatened habitats. Plantlife developed the first IPA criteria in 2001.
Nature Reserve Diary
Our Augill Pasture reserve is a shining example of mountain hay meadow habitat in Cumbria which needs careful year round management by the Plantlife and Cumbria Wildlife Trusts team. We hear from Nature Reserves Manager Andrew Kearsey about how we’ve been working to protect the reserve this winter.
One of the biggest issues facing our nature reserves is the ongoing management of Ash trees suffering from dieback – Augill is no different as the woodland there is about 10% Ash. Some of the ash trees were identified through our tree safety surveys as being diseased and close to footpaths and the car park.
Two of the diseased trees were overhanging the Augill Smelt Mill. Any limb shedding would cause further damage to this structure, which is on the Historic England Scheduled Monument At-Risk register.
We made the decision to employ a local firm of tree surgeons to remove both these trees and several other ash trees around the car park. This work was delivered working with our tenant for the reserve; Cumbria Wildlife Trust.
The trees were removed in Mid-January and I went recently to check on their progress. When I arrived they had cordoned off the car park and footpaths and had their climber in the larger of the two trees removing the higher limbs. By the time I left about 2 hours later, they had removed the majority of the limbs, while the ground crew had processed the brash and timber into log piles and brash windrows
Pony grazed meadows at Augill Pasture Nature Reserve. Image by Andrew Kearsey Andrew
The grassland at Augill Pasture is managed by grazing and unusually for our reserves it is grazed by ponies. Two small ponies were put on the reserve in October and were taken off recently, as the weather became very cold at the beginning of January. This grazing will have controlled the growth of the grass species, allowing the forb species enough space to grow as the weather turns warmer.”
Plantife’s Meadows Hub has everything you need to help you manage your meadow or grassland including practical step by step advice, resources, links to training days and expert knowledge
Only 3.2% of England’s land and sea is protected. This is why nature reserves are so important.
They are protected havens for wild plants and wildlife. Will you help keep them flourishing?
Alistair Whyte, Head of Plantlife Scotland shares his thoughts on Scotland’s relict plant, Purple Oxytropis
“Sloping rocky banks and red sandstone cliffs. Extinct.” This is the brief and rather depressing entry for Purple Oxytropis Oxytropis halleri in my old Flora of Angus book (Ingram and Noltie, 1981).
The plant has been gone from Angus for a long time, as it has from North Queensferry and several other locations in Scotland. It’s one of our rarest wildflowers.
Purple oxytropis is an impressive plant – a member of the Fabaceae (legume) family, with purple flowers, silky leaves and growing in sometimes large colonies in the few places where it does still exist. In the UK, the species is only found in Scotland. Elsewhere, it’s only found in the high mountains of central Europe.
Its Scottish distribution is described as ‘relict’. Most of its remaining populations are coastal, with its stronghold on the north mainland coast. There are a very few populations on the north-east coast, and one extremely isolated population away down on the Mull of Galloway, in the south-west. It’s also found near the summits of three Scottish mountains, two in Perthshire and one in Argyll.
It’s likely that it was never a very common plant, and this country is very much on the northern edge of its range. But there’s no doubt that it was more widely distributed in the past than it is today. Some populations have been lost due to development destroying its habitat. The species is vulnerable to over-grazing– it’s tasty to grazing animals (of which we have an increasing number in Scotland). It also likes open conditions, so won’t thrive in areas that get too encroached with scrub or trees.
Purple oxytropis is dependent on pollinators, mainly bees, to successfully reproduce. Anything impacting on these pollinators will in turn impact on the ability of purple oxytropis to survive.
Its remaining isolated coastal populations are also extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels could be catastrophic, and associated erosion could spell disaster. The species isn’t widely distributed enough to withstand local impacts like this. A recent study carried out for Plantlife concluded that it is probable that the Mull of Galloway population will become extinct if no new plants appear and highlighted the threat that a single event such as a landslip could have on the fragile population there.
The isolated nature of the remaining populations means that the plants are likely to exhibit low genetic diversity and high levels of inbreeding, which will weaken them and make their future survival less likely. However, We don’t know enough about the genetics of the species to be sure.
How much should we care about trying to save a species which is already on the edge of its range? Surely, it’s doing okay in the Alps? The problem with that argument is simply, where do you draw the line? If we lose it from Scotland, does the next closest population become the ‘edge of range’ one which it’s OK to lose? And then the next?
If we want to live in a country that’s rich in wildlife, we must look after the species that make their home here. The problems facing Purple Oxytropis are difficult but not insurmountable. And by tackling the problems facing this species, we will also address these problems for a host of other species which are facing similar threats.
Looking at a map of Purple Oxytropis distribution over time is like watching a series of lights blinking out one by one. I don’t think anyone wants the map to go completely dark. It’s up to us to keep as many lights on as possible.
Plantlife is taking action for Purple Oxytropis through Species on the Edge partnership.
Discover 4 new walk ideas and Scottish spring adventure inspiration from Plantlife Scotland’s Communications and Policy Officer, Erin Shott.
Look, the seasons, they are a-changing and I don’t know about you, but I am so looking forward to that sweet, sweet spring time weather. After the cold winter days and long winter nights, I am so ready to get out there and breathe in the freshness of spring.
I would highly recommend taking a visit to one of Scotland’s rainforests if you have the opportunity. The high rainfall, and mild temperatures result in lush mossy areas just bursting with lichens and bryophytes it really does feel like I’ve stepped into a fairy tale. And if that doesn’t attract your attention then you’ll be impressed with the sheer abundance, diversity, and rarity of the species of Scotland’s rainforest.
It won’t be my first visit to the temperate rainforest; however, I’ve visited Glen Nant in the past. Plantlife has a downloadable handy wild plant walk leaflet for the Glen Nant Important Plant Area (IPA), so it was a solid motivation for a visit for me.
But I hear you ask, what if I don’t want to visit a rainforest site? Looking for something short and located in the central belt?
Then download and check out North Berwick Law, our guide is for a nice 1 mile hike up one iconic hill in East Lothian. Plenty of opportunity to spot wild plants too, like Meadow Saxifrage Saxifraga granulata, this snow-white species is found in dry grasslands, or the hilariously named Cuckooflower Cardamine pratensis, due to its delicate purple flowers starting to bloom just as the cuckoo first begins its call.
If you’re the Munro bagging type, then check out the Ben Nevis IPA, a delightful 10-mile hike that is absolutely rich in Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum a plant once used for its potential as a natural dye or the delightfully carnivorous Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia (image by Michael Scott) which have long red-coloured stalks that are often seen with globules of ‘dew’ hanging from them. These globules are a polysaccharide solution to trap and digest their prey.
If you’re keen to spend a day out in the Cairngorms, take some time to discover Anagach woods IPA. Download your a free guide here. Soak in the wonders of the Caledonian pinewoods, maybe you’ll spot the rare and iconic Twinflower Linnaea borealis? This special plant is a focal point for our Cairngorms Rare Plants Project. You might also find some Wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella, with its clover-shaped leaves (that taste like apples), this springtime bloomer has delicate white flowers with lilac coloured veins.
Saving the endangered Three-lobed Water Crowfoot plant, which is considered as an aquatic buttercup species.
New pools are being created at Greena Moor, a secluded Cornish nature reserve, for the endangered Three-lobed Water Crowfoot Ranunculus tripartitus.
The work was funded by Natural England through their Species Recovery Programme and charitable trusts including the Stuart Heath Charitable Settlement. Nature Reserves Manager Jonathan Stone have been working to protect the ‘star’ of Greena Moor.
Three-lobed Water Crowfoot is an aquatic member of the buttercup family, the plant has small, white, starry flowers. Like most crowfoots, it has two kinds of leaves; the surface leaves are three-lobed and broad, but the underwater leaves – rarely seen with this species but seen here in this photo – are finely divided and feathery.
In March 2020, Three-lobed Crowfoot occupied only two small pools near the ford, covering an area of just 7m2, and it was clear that a lack of suitable shallow water bodies was preventing further spread of the species at Greena.
Grazing also plays an important role, helping to control competing vegetation and distributing seed. The cattle grazing at Greena appears ideal, and on the Cornish Lizard heaths Three-lobed Crowfoot has become far more common under similar management conditions.
The nature reserves management team have created 10 new pools to encourage more Three-lobed Crowfoot plant. We are very hopeful to seeing similar increases of this beautiful endangered plant over the coming years.
Learn about why our Munsary Peatlands reserve is being put forward for inscription as the world’s first peatland UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Plantlife’s Artist in Residence, shares her summer journey across our reserves and some top tips for aspiring botanical artists.
Plantlife’s Cairngorms Project Manager Sam Jones reveals how a tiny flower in Scotland is fighting back against extinction in the UK.
Spring is an exciting time to be on our nature reserves. This is the season when the meadows really burst into life, with lush growth and seasonal flowers.
In the UK we have over 45 species of orchid – which might be more than you thought! Learn more about this wild and wonderful family of plants with Plantlife wildflower expert Sarah Shuttleworth.
Plantlife’s Vascular Plants Officer Robbie Blackhall-Miles finds an exciting new plant species for Wales.
Dave Lamacraft, Plantlife’s Lichen and Bryophyte Specialist, heads out to discover a wealth of extraordinary lichens which call Wales’ rainforests home.
The nature and climate crises are inseparable challenges: healthy species and habitats provide essential solutions to climate change, absorbing carbon and increasing resilience. Yet many carbon-focused initiatives are blind to the importance of plant and fungi diversity or can even do more harm than good, causing damage and destruction to our most precious wildlife.
Nature-based solutions to climate change rightly focus on trees, wetlands and peatlands, but often overlook the importance of the world’s permanent grasslands. From the smallest British wildflower meadow to the great steppes, savanna and prairies, these grasslands are home to thousands of species, many of which are threatened and endangered.
Grassland ecosystems are often undervalued in climate mitigation strategies. Yet they store between 25-35% of the world’s land based – or terrestrial – carbon, 90% of it underground. While grasslands, savannahs and rangelands store less carbon per area than forests, their underground stocks are considered safer in areas of high fire or future logging risks. Grasslands with high biodiversity can sequester even more carbon and be more resilient to the effects of climate change.
In a briefing and case studies published jointly with WWF, we demonstrate how grassland protection and restoration can support a sustainable and equitable food system, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester and store carbon, provide resilience to extreme weather events, support food security and rural livelihoods, improve health and wellbeing, and boost biodiversity.
For Plantlife and its partners, this highlights the fact that wild plants and fungi are at the heart of tackling the biodiversity and climate change crises together. To promote the wider recognition of this internationally, Plantlife has worked across the world to build a growing global network of Important Plant Areas (IPAs), which contain some of the best wild plant and fungi species and habitats. You can explore the world of IPAs through our interactive story map.
We are calling on governments around the world to align their climate and nature goals in international agreements as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. With ambitious goals in place, we need local communities, leaders, and governments to identify and recognise those precious sites for wild plants and fungi, and then collaborate on their protection or restoration – for nature, climate and people.
Grasslands, savannahs and rangelands are huge carbon stores, vital global resources forbiodiversity, food and freshwater security, and offer many ecosystem services to support climatemitigation and adaptation.
Case studies on the importance of grasslands ecosystem in the UK, Brazil, Mongolia, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Extraction of peat for gardening and horticulture continues to damage wildlife and our climate, despite government commitments to phase it out. Plantlife is calling on governments and industry to end the use of peat in gardening and horticulture to benefit nature and our climate.
Plantlife, along with the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and Friends of the Earth, is calling on government and industry to replace peat use in gardening and horticulture.
It’s time we stopped this destructive practice. Although the government has set targets to halt horticultural use of peat, too little progress is being made.
Peat-loving bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata at Plantlife’s Munsary nature reserve, Scotland. Photograph by Richard Lindsay
Peat is plant material which is partially decomposed and has accumulated in waterlogged conditions.
Peatlands include moors, bogs and fens, as well as some farmed land.
Peat bogs are particular types of wetlands waterlogged by direct rainfall. Peat bogs grow slowly, accumulating around 0.5 to 1 mm of peat each year, and the water prevents the plants from decomposing. As a result, many areas of UK peat bog have been accumulating gradually for as much as 10,000 years, and can be up to 10m deep. Due to its slow accumulation, peat is often classified as a fossil fuel.
Different types of peat bog have formed in response to the climate and other conditions in differeny locations.
Peat and peatlands are hugely important for plants, the wildlife that depend on them and, ultimately, us humans too.
Peat bogs store vast amounts of carbon, which must kept in the ground to avoid contributing to climate change.
Peat bogs also act like a sponge, soaking up rainwater, and can help to reduce flood risk. Water filtered through healthy peat bogs is of a higher quality than water from degraded bogs, making it cheaper to treat as drinking water. Around 70% of our water comes from British uplands, and over half of this passes through peat.
Plants to find in peatlands include carpets of colourful mosses and cotton grasses, and dotted with bog asphodel, rare sedges, cuckooflower, marsh violet, sundews, common butterwort, marsh cinquefoil and marsh willowherb.
Peatland wild plants support a range of butterflies, dragonflies and birds, including snipe and curlews, merlins and skylarks.
Commercial peat extraction in the UK and Ireland is largely from raised bogs in the lowlands.
Much less peat comes from blanket bog, which is much thinner and more often found in the uplands in Scotland and western parts of the UK.
IUCN UK Peatland Programme (2011), Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands: Summary of Findings, October 2011
In 2015 more than half of peat used for horticulture in the UK came from the Republic of Ireland, where peat is extracted on a large scale for horticulture and for burning to produce heat and electricity. As peat extraction has declined in the UK, we have increased imports from Ireland, effectively exporting much of the environmental impact.
Put simply, our current use of peat is unsustainable.
As well as campaigning, Plantlife works to raise awareness, and conserve and restore peatlands