Some of the species we hold in cultivation are showcased below and are listed in alphabetical order by scientific name.
This rare perennial herb is found in shaded woodlands and limestone pavements in northern England. The black berries contain toxins that have a sedative effect on humans. Ingestion of the berries can lead to cardiac arrest and death. Perhaps surprisingly this toxic plant is used as a homeopathic remedy for various ailments, particularly rheumatism. The berries are harmless to birds which are the primary seed dispersers.
This delicate little fern has an annual life cycle which is unusual in European ferns. In the British Isles it is only known from Jersey and Guernsey where it grows on shady hedge banks and stone walls.
This rare arctic alpine was discovered new to Britain in 1887 by Henry Hart, an Irish botanist and mountaineer. It is restricted to a small number of rocky ledges high up in the Cullin Mountains on the Isle of Skye.
A rare northern plant of open habitats such as cliff faces, river shingle and scree. It has a wide altitudinal range, from near sea level in Shetland to 1220 metres on Braeriach, South Aberdeen.
Bristol Rock-cress is a famous rarity associated with the Avon Gorge near Bristol. It grows on exposed south facing limestone rocks, scree and crags. It is extremely drought tolerant and will sit out desiccating summer droughts as a small compact tuft of leaves. It was first documented by the pioneering botanist John Ray who found it growing in the gorge at St. Vincent’s Rock in 1686. It is gratifying that over three hundred years later it can still be found in the same location.
Armeria maritima ssp. elongata
This inland subspecies of the familiar coastal plant was once widespread in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire but declined rapidly as a result of agricultural intensification. It is now restricted to just two sites, Ancaster Cemetery in Lincolnshire and a nearby pasture.
Artemisia campestris ssp. campestris
This Breckland speciality is now restricted to a few locations in Suffolk and Norfolk. Historically many sites were lost as a result of agricultural intensification, forestry and development. The largest population is located in an industrial estate in Brandon where a small area is set aside and specially managed for the Field Wormwood. It has managed to spread beyond the confines of the reserve and can also be found as a pavement weed around the industrial estate.
This long-lived perennial is restricted to a few coastal localities in western Britain where it grows on rocky slopes and sea cliffs. Our material is from Pembrokeshire.
This beautiful alpine plant is known from just four sites in the eastern Scottish Highlands. It is typically found in species rich grassland and is often associated with other rare mountain plants. It was first discovered in 1831 in Glen Doll, Angus.
This nationally scarce plant can be found on dry woodland slopes over chalk in the Chilterns, and in damp woodlands over clay in the Kent and Sussex Weald. It is a rhizomatous perennial herb that gets its name from the cream-coloured, coral-like rhizome. Whilst flowering can be prolific, few seeds are produced and reproduction is primarily by axillary bulbils that are formed in the leaf axils of mature plants.
This nationally scarce sedge grows in open woods, scree and hedge banks. It favours damp, slightly shaded sites with a high calcium content and good drainage. Our material originates from Gloucestershire.
Bristle Sedge is a tiny species that grows in a scattering of populations in the mountainous regions of Perthshire. Its small stature, similarity to Flea Sedge, and its remote mountainous habitat meant that it was not discovered until 1923.
This rare sedge was discovered new to the British Isles at Morvich in 2004. It is now known from a small number of other sites along the west coast of Scotland. It grows in saltmarshes near the high-tide level. Very few flowers are produced in the wild populations and this is also the case in horticultural conditions.
The aptly named Stinking Goosefoot is without a doubt one of the smelliest plants in Britain. Its unpleasant smell is likened to that of rotting fish and it is produced when the leaves or flowers are rubbed or crushed. Once a widespread species, it has undergone a catastrophic decline and is now restricted to just a handful of coastal locations in south east England.
Alpine Blue-sowthistle is known only from mountains in the eastern Highlands of Scotland. It was first discovered by the famous alpine plant hunter George Don in 1801. It is susceptible to grazing by deer which has restricted it to inaccessible rock ledges. It was almost certainly much more widespread in the past prior to increased deer numbers. It seems poorly adapted to mountain conditions and is probably a sub-montane species surviving in sub-optimal habitats at atypical elevations. Our material is from Glen Clova, Angus.
The Wood Calamint is one of the rarest plants in Britain. Historically it has only ever been known from a single valley on the Isle of Wight but within this valley it is known to have occupied a few hectares of woodland, downland and scrub. It was first described by William Bromfield in 1843 as occurring ‘in the greatest profusion and luxuriance’. It is now restricted to just a few square metres of woodland edge alongside a single-track road. The plants demise is attributable to a change in woodland management, primarily a reduction in grazing animals and the abandonment of coppicing, both of which have resulted in a closed woodland canopy.
This interesting annual is only known from a localised area of shoreline at Slapton Ley in Devon. Previously widespread around Slapton Ley, it has declined as a result of lack of open bare ground. It has been the subject of a reintroduction project to bolster the wild population.
This diminutive little annual is only known from Lock Shiel, West Inverness. It was discovered in 1969 and is probably a relatively recent addition to the British flora, perhaps having arrived on the feet of migratory birds or even on the feet of visiting Salmon fishermen. It was once known from Adel Dam in Yorkshire but was last seen here in 1938.
This rare plant from the Chilterns has escaped from our greenhouses and has established small wild colonies in the hedgerows around our nursery.
Brown Galingale is an annual plant associated with seasonally flooded pond and ditch margins. The best British sites have a continuous history of grazing by livestock which maintain the open, poached conditions favoured by Brown Galingale. Always a rare plant in Britain, Brown Galingale is now known from approximately half a dozen sites, all in southern England.
The Starfruit is a critically endangered species that is associated with the drawdown zone of ephemeral ponds. Our material is of unknown origin, it was originally given to Plantlife in the 1990’s but unfortunately the donor did not disclose their name or where the plant came from.
The Deptford Pink is a rare species of dry pastures, field borders and hedgerows. It acts as an annual or biennial and requires grazing or some other form of soil disturbance for seedling establishment. It is primarily a plant of southern England. It has never been recorded from Deptford.
Maiden Pink is a declining plant of dry grasslands and rocky banks. It is unable to tolerate modern sheep stocking densities and has been lost at many sites through overgrazing. Our material is from Radnorshire.
This mat-forming perennial herb has been known from St Ouen`s Bay, Jersey since 1892. It may well be a deliberate introduction but it is treated by conservationists as an ‘honorary rarity’. It was once down to a single wild plant but numbers have been boosted following a species recovery project undertaken by Jersey Zoo. Our material originates from the wild population at St Ouen`s Bay.
Wall Whitlow-grass is an overwintering annual. As a native plant it is found on open shallow limestone soils, and on south facing ledges and screes. It has also been recorded from old walls, forest tracks and railway embankments.
We cultivate Floating Club-rush not for the plant itself as it's not particularly rare, but for the very rare root smut fungus Entorrhiza raunkiaeriana that infects the roots of the plant. This rare root smut previously known from just one site in Denmark was found new to Britain in 2017 by Arthur Chater in Cardiganshire. We have subsequently found it in Radnorshire, but only in ponds where Floating Club-rush is particularly abundant. The fungus is not much to look at and resembles a tiny potato that is attached to the ends of its host’s roots, no wonder it was overlooked for so long!
In the British Isles this strange plant is known only from north western Scotland and western Ireland where it grows in oligotrophic lakes and pools. Its habitat is so widespread in western Scotland that it is difficult to explain why it has such a limited range.
This climbing annual plant is restricted to woodland margins, hedge banks and thickets in central southern England. It produces a vast number of seeds that can remain viable for many years. Germination is trigged by soil disturbance and the Copse-bindweed can appear in quantity when woods are felled or coppiced. It has always been a rare plant but it has become rarer in recent times as a result of changes in woodland management.
We cultivate a number a rare Cudweeds, our favourite is Red-tipped Cudweed that comes from Hampshire. Once known from more than two hundred sites it is now known from approximately twenty. Its decline is a result of agricultural intensification.
This annual plant is typically an arable weed. It declined dramatically following the widespread use of fertilisers and herbicides and, as a species that sets seed late in the summer, it has also fallen victim to the early ploughing of stubbles. It also occurs on coastal sands and shingle in the southern counties of England and Wales. At these sites populations have been lost to gravel extraction and coastal engineering works.
A rare annual grass usually associated with open grassland on steep cliffs and shallow calcareous soils in the south west of Britain. It has completely vanished from south-east England where it once occurred as an arable weed. It gets its name from the shiny swollen glumes that resemble nits (the eggs of head lice). Our material is from the Avon Gorge.
This uncommon species has been lost from many of its former sites and many existing populations are vulnerable because they comprise a very small number of plants. Our material is from Northamptonshire. It was sent to us by a local botanist as a backup for a population that was once under threat from inappropriate management. Fortunately favourable management has now been restored through the efforts of a local volunteer and the site now supports over one hundred plants.
This wintergreen mat-forming perennial is chiefly a plant of compacted sandy or gravely soils in eastern England. As a native plant it is now confined to Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.
A winter annual that germinates in the autumn and flowers very early in the spring, sometimes as early as January. In Britain this tiny plant is known from two distinct habitats; south or south west facing slopes on carboniferous limestone, and calcareous sand dunes.
Toadflax-leaved St. John’s-wort
This globally rare St. John’s-wort is restricted to the western coast of Europe and has reached its northern limit in north Wales. It is a short-lived perennial of steep, south facing rocky slopes that are prone to summer droughts. In Britain it is now restricted to Cornwall, Devon and Caernarvonshire. It has been lost from some sites as a result of scrub encroachment. It hybridises with Trailing St. John’s-wort H. humifusum and this has resulted in the loss of pure Toadflax-leaved St. John’s-wort at some locations. Our material is Welsh.
Wavy St John’s-wort
This rare and beautiful St. John’s-wort is confined to rushy pastures and fens in the south west of Britain. It is usually found in seasonally or permanently waterlogged areas in association with other herbs of waterlogged ground. It has been lost from many of its former localities as a result of agricultural intensification. Wavy St John’s-wort is a globally rare species that is confined to the Atlantic fringe of western Europe, from western Spain and Portugal northwards to Britain.
Dwarf Rush & Pygmy Rush
Juncus capitatus & J. pygmaeus
We have had these two diminutive and very rare annual rushes from the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall in cultivation for many years. They grow in one of our raised plant beds that is dedicated entirely to species associated with the drawdown zone of ephemeral ponds and lakes; a rare and declining habitat that supports a diverse range of specialist wet mud plants.
Juniperus communis ssp. hemisphaerica
In the British Isles this rare subspecies of Juniper is only known from Pembrokeshire and the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. All existing populations are extremely small. The Lizard population was first recorded in 1871 and was described as occurring ‘in abundance’ but the population is now down to just ten wild plants. Fortunately it is easy to grow from small cuttings and conservation bodies are working on recovery projects to bolster the dwindling wild populations. Our plants are female and originate from the Lizard Peninsula.
Least Lettuce is an autumn or spring germinating annual that occurs on sandy shingle and old sea walls. It was once known from many sites in south east England but it is now known from just three. Its dramatic decline is attributable to sea-wall refurbishment and river engineering works. Often diminutive in the wild, it can reach two metres in height in horticultural conditions.
This very rare grass grows on the margins of ditches, dykes, canals and ponds. It is now restricted to a handful of sites in south east England. Its decline is attributable to the drainage of wetland habitats, changes in water-course management and the pollution of waterways.
Mudwort & Welsh Mudwort
Limosella aquatica & L. australis
There are two species of Mudwort in the British Isles, Mudwort and the much rarer Welsh Mudwort. We have both in cultivation, they grow side by side but the long awaited hybrid has yet to appear.
This creeping perennial plant is a native of Scottish pine forests. Recent research has found that 80% of the Scottish population is a single clone with the remainder comprising just two or three closely related clones. Twinflower is an outbreeding plant and as a result the scattered Scottish populations are sterile and produce no viable seeds.
Heath Lobelia is restricted to the southern coastal counties of England and has been lost from many of its former sites. Our plants have been used in a reintroduction project in Dorset.
Slender Bird’s-foot Trefoil
A rare annual of rocky outcrops and grassy banks by the sea. Scattered populations occur along the south coast of England with the largest populations located between Prawle Point and Start Point in Devon. It is usually found in association with the nationally scarce Hairy Bird’s-foot Trefoil Lotus subbiflorus which we also hold in cultivation. Both species have declined as a result of coastal scrub encroachment following the cessation of traditional management practices such as grazing and burning.
Floating-leaved Water Plantain
This very rare aquatic from the Montgomeryshire Canal grows like a weed in some of our ponds. We have had it in cultivation for many years. It originates from a small sprig that was posted to us by a local fisherman who was keen to know the name of the plant that was constantly snagging his fishing line.
The very rare Fen Woodrush is found at just two sites in the British Isles. Our material comes from Holme Fen in Cambridgeshire and was passed onto us by an amateur botanist who maintains a backup population in cultivation.
Grass-poly is a rare annual of seasonally wet ground. It grows on wet mud around the margins of ponds and lakes and in wet ruts and hollows in arable fields. Large populations occur at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire and at Willen Lake in Milton Keynes. At both these sites the Grass-poly is likely to have colonised from seeds transported on migratory waterfowl.
A flower of sea cliffs and sand dunes in south Wales and Devon. The night-scented flowers are pollinated by lepidoptera, particularly noctuid moths. It is a plant of Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts that has reached its northern limit in Britain and Ireland.
This stunning annual plant is a hemiparasite, usually on the roots of grasses. Once an arable weed it now occurs in open grassland and field borders at a very small number of sites in Hampshire, Wiltshire, Bedfordshire and the Isle of Wight.
It is surprising that this beautiful native plant has not made its way into the horticultural trade. Perhaps its rude name has something to do with this.
This rare annual of bare limestone soils is primarily a plant of the Cotswolds and is sometimes called Cotswold Pennycress. It is known from nine native sites, most are in Gloucestershire with a handful of sites in Oxfordshire. It is a very early flowerer and in favourable years we have seen flowering plants on our rockeries as early as February. Conservation organisations have established new populations in old quarries such as at Grange Hill Quarry in the Cotswolds.
Heath Cudweed is a short lived perennial herb of open communities on dry acidic soils. Typical habitats include heathy pastures, sand-pits, dunes and forestry rides. It has suffered a serious decline primarily because the open conditions it requires have been lost to encroaching vegetation. Populations have also been lost as a result of modifications to forestry tracks and roads.
This rare fern is primarily a plant of coastal grassland but it is also known from the New Forest where it grows in damp heathland hollows that are grazed by ponies. The gametophyte stage is mycorrhizal and subterranean and little is known of its life history.
This scarce parasite of ivy is typically a maritime species but it is sometimes found as an introduction in parklands, gardens and cemeteries. Our plant nursery is home to the rare yellow variant that lacks anthocyanin.
This very rare goosefoot originates from a grazing marsh on the Isle of Grain, Kent. Usually diminutive in the wild, it can reach monstrous proportions in cultivation.
A rare perennial known from approximately twenty Scottish locations. Most populations occur on seaside cliff ledges but there are also a small number of inland populations. It was first reported in Britain in 1777 near North Queensferry in Fife, sadly this site was destroyed during the construction of the railway cutting to the Forth Bridge.
The oddly named Childing Pink is an extremely rare annual of coastal habitats in southern England. The largest population is on shingle at Pagham Harbour in Sussex. This population is inaccessible at flowering time because it grows inside a fenced enclosure that protects a breeding tern colony. Our material is from its other well-known site at Shoreham where it grows in the company of another Shoreham speciality, the Starry Clover Trifolium stellatum. The Starry Clover is a rare alien that has been known from Shoreham since 1804, we have had it in cultivation for a number of years.
This strange fern is an inhabitant of seasonal pools and pond margins. It is a global rarity with a substantial portion of the world population occurring in Britain. Pillwort is threatened by drainage and pollution of its wetland habitat and the continued spread of invasive alien species. Mid Wales holds some of the finest populations in Britain but these are now under threat following the arrival of New Zealand Pygmyweed Crassula helmsii.
Pilosella peleteriana ssp. subpeleteriana
This creeping perennial is known from a handful of sites in England and one in Wales. In Wales it grows prolifically on quarry spoil heaps and tracks at Breidden Hill in Montgomeryshire.
This very rare Knotgrass occurs on a few scattered beaches along the south coast of England. It is typically found growing on shingle or coarse sand just above the high spring tide mark. The open conditions it requires are created and maintained by winter storms. Our material is from Hayling Island in Hampshire where a small population maintains a tenuous hold despite the pressures of tourists, dog walkers and flood defence work.
From its only Mid Wales site at Llan Bwch-llyn Lake in Radnorshire. Our staff found a few bits of this rare pondweed washed up along the shores of the lake, the plants were a bit tatty and very dried out but with careful propagation they took root and now grow in one of our ponds.
The headquarters of this rare annual species is the New Forest in Hampshire where it grows in seasonally wet grassy hollows that are grazed by ponies. Our plants are from an outlier population at Bramshill in north east Hampshire. Sadly the plant has now become extinct here through inappropriate management.
The Pasqueflower is a beautiful perennial herb confined to shallow calcareous soils in England. It was lost from many sites as a result of agricultural improvements in the 18th and 19th centuries. Sadly, the decline continues today, primarily through a lack of appropriate management.
This annual species of wet mud around pond margins is known from just two sites in the British Isles. Our material comes from Badgeworth Nature Reserve in Gloucestershire. According to the Guinness Book of Records this is the smallest nature reserve in the world. We have had it in cultivation for over twenty years. The Badgeworth population is thriving and in some years there are thousands of plants. At its other site at Inglestone Common a reintroduction project has recently been undertaken to boost the dwindling wild population.
This rare winter annual of seasonal ponds and poached trackways has disappeared from many of its former sites through lack of appropriate management. It appears to have a long lived seed bank and has recently reappeared at Ysgeifiog Moor in Pembrokeshire following the removal of invasive vegetation.
Greater Yellow Rattle
Now only known from three main areas; Surrey, North Lincolnshire and Angus. As an introduction it has an outpost here in Mid Wales where it grows in our specially managed hay meadow. It does not appear to hybridise with the much commoner Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor.
This globally rare species of Dock is threatened throughout its world range. It is a perennial species of sand and shingle beaches, coastal rocks and damp dune-slacks. It requires a constant supply of fresh water so is usually found close to streams and springs. In Britain it has been recorded from the Scilly Isles (where it is now extinct), Devon and Cornwall, with outlier populations in Glamorgan and Anglesey. Elsewhere it is only known only from north-west Spain, north-west France and the Channel Islands. Throughout its world range many populations have been lost through the construction of costal sea defences. Natural processes including winter storms have also resulted in the loss of some populations. Our material is from Anglesey.
Meadow Clary is one of our most stunning rare wildflowers. It grows in unimproved pastures and meadows where there is a long history of favourable management. The largest British populations are in Oxfordshire.
A rare species of Saxifrage known only from a few scattered mountain tops in Scotland. It flowers infrequently in Britain and is unable to set viable seed. It reproduces vegetatively by axillary bulbils.
Our material was collected under special licence from Cwm Idwal in Snowdonia. The entire Welsh population of this rare arctic alpine is restricted to just two individuals that grow side by side on a large moss covered boulder. As far as we are aware we are the only botanical institution to hold Welsh material in cultivation. It can be difficult to propagate as the plants are very susceptible to mould and mildew. We hope that one day our plants will allow reintroduction to Cwm Idwal. We recently passed seeds of this special plant to the National Botanic Garden of Wales.
This arable weed was once so abundant that it impeded mechanical harvesters. The widespread use of chemical herbicides initiated a catastrophic decline and it is now a nationally scarce species that is still in steep decline. Our material is from an arable field in Northamptonshire. Shortly after seeds were collected the crop was sprayed with herbicide and the Shepherd’s Needle has not been seen since.
Scleranthus perennis ssp. perennis
Our material was collected under licence and was used in a successful reintroduction at its only native British site at Stanner Rocks in Radnorshire. We also hold Scleranthus perennis ssp. prostratus in cultivation which is endemic to the Brecklands of East Anglia.
The intriguingly named Viper’s Grass is restricted to just two locations, one in Dorset and the other in Glamorgan where hundreds of plants were discovered in 1996.
Historically this fenland species was once quite widespread, particularly in Cambridgeshire, but drainage of its habitat eliminated it and the last reliable record in the 19th century was from Wicken Fen in 1857. It was considered extinct in Britain up until 1972 when a small colony was discovered growing in a roadside ditch near Soham in Cambridgeshire. The ditch had been created a few years previously and it appears that the plant established from long dormant seeds that were brought to the surface by the ditch clearance works. Seeds from the Soham population have been used in recovery projects that have successfully established Fen Ragwort at historical sites such as Wicken Fen and Woodwalton fen.
In 2017 a colony of approximately sixty flowering Tongue-orchids was found growing in an abandoned allotment in Essex. Was the Tongue-orchid deliberately or accidentally introduced? Or had it colonised naturally from seeds blown across the English Channel? Our cultivated plants originate from France.
This small and inconspicuous creeping plant is usually found in humid and sheltered microclimates above streams or ditches. Its stronghold is in Cornwall and Devon but it is also known from a handful of sites in Wales and south east England. Our material is from the Scilly Isles.
Night-flowering Catchfly is a declining arable weed. Herbicides, fertilisers, and the shift from spring-sown to autumn-sown crops have all contributed to its continued decline.
This long-lived clump forming perennial is a plant of shallow chalk and limestone grassland. It is still widespread in its coastal stronghold from East Devon to East Kent but has declined in many of its inland sites. It is no longer present in Nottingham.
This very rare perennial plant is known from a few scattered populations in Gloucestershire and Denbighshire. The most well-known population at Wotton-under-Edge is ‘gardened’ to ensure the plants survival. It is now generally considered to be an historic introduction.
This very rare biennial or short-lived perennial was once fairly widespread in southern England but it is now restricted to a small handful of sites in Oxfordshire. It typically grows on the edges of woodlands and hedgerows. It is a poor competitor and does best in open situations. It has a long-lived seedbank and plants can reappear at historic sites after a long absence, usually following some form of soil disturbance.
Cut-leaved Germander is a rare monocarpic biennial of sparsely vegetated places. It is now restricted to less than ten sites, all in the southern half of Britain. Our material is from its most well-known location, Micheldever Spoil Heaps in Hampshire.
Water Germander is a stoloniferous, winter-green, perennial herb of dune-slacks, river banks, ditches and streams. Agricultural intensification has caused the extinction of most British colonies and it is now known from just two sites, one in Devon and one in Cambridgeshire.
Twin-headed clover, Long-headed clover & Upright Clover
Trifolium boconnii, T. incarnatum ssp. molinerii & T. strictum
The three rarest annual clovers from the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. We have had these in cultivation for almost twenty years. A survey of all known populations on the Lizard Peninsula in 2012 found 176 Twin-headed Clover plants, 1,500 Long-headed Clover plants, and 136 Upright Clover plants. Much reduced on previous counts and apparently absent from many of their historical sites these modest numbers reflect a change in management and a lack of bare open ground.
Honewort is a rare plant of dry stony limestone turf. It behaves either as a biennial or a monocarpic perennial. Male and female flowers are usually on separate plants. The plant is restricted to a scattering of sites in North Somerset, Gloucestershire, and South Devon. It was first recorded in Britain from St. Vincent’s Rock in the Avon Gorge by William Turner in 1562.
Breckland Speedwell, Fingered Speedwell & Spring Speedwell
Veronica praecox, V. triphyllos & V. verna
These three annual Speedwells are restricted to Breckland. In the wild they are associated with arable field margins and bare open ground that is kept free of competing vegetation by sheep and rabbits. Often diminutive in the wild, in cultivation they can reach a very large size.
A rare and strikingly beautiful blue flowered perennial herb of well-drained, nutrient-poor soils. Often separated into two subspecies. In East Anglia, ssp. spicata grows on acidic to base-rich sandy soils in open, shortly-grazed grassland. Plants in west Britain are ssp. hybrida which grow on thin soils on base-rich cliffs, grassland and rocks. Our collection includes both western and eastern forms of the plant as well as a stunning white flowered form from Stanner Rocks in Radnorshire.
Yellow Vetch is an annual plant of coastal habitats including cliffs, open grassland and shingle. It is a southern and western European species which is at the northern edge of its range in Britain.