Rare Plants Group Home

What do we do?

The Rare Plants Group is a part of The Ashmolean Natural History Society of Oxfordshire. Based in Oxford, it works with local and national organisations to prevent extinction of wild plants in Oxfordshire.

The Rare Plants Group has focussed its efforts on twelve plant species, seven of which are on the UK Biodiversity list, and four of which are key species on that list. Typical action for an endangered species adopted by the group includes:

  • study of its historic distribution using herbarium and literature sources
  • consultation with specialists and landowners
  • drafting and agreement of a local species action plan
  • search at all localities
  • investigation of the habitat and pollination requirements of the species by experimental methods
  • devising monitoring protocols and carrying out long term monitoring
  • collection of material for seed storage, DNA analysis and cultivation
  • restoration of species from the natural seed-bank at former sites
  • practical habitat management
Members of the Rare Plants Group
Members of the Rare Plants Group enjoying a lunch break during a Rare Plants Register Hunt

In addition the group:

  • carries out occasional work on other species (e.g., Corn-cleavers, Galium tricornutum)
  • protects species of local cultural or historical interest (e.g. Birthwort, Aristolochia clemataitis and Wild Celery, Apium graveolens)
  • carries out site-based surveys
  • arranges public lectures and carries out publicity to raise awareness
  • organises workshops
  • produces a newsletter
  • spearheads current work on the County Rare Plants Register
Wild Celery Apium graveolens found on its historical site 
at Marcham
Wild Celery, Apium graveolens found on its historical site at Marcham


The Group runs an annual series of lectures on the conservation of plants in Britain and abroad, held by kind permission of Professor Langdale at the University of Oxford Department of Plant Sciences. See the programme for more details about the lectures.


Workshops have been held on:
  • Creeping Marshwort, Apium repens
  • Meadow clary, Salvia pratensis
  • Fen violet, Viola persicifolia
  • Meadow dandelions (e.g. the rare Taraxacum tamesense and T. cherwellense)
  • The Valley-head Fens of Oxfordshire

Accounts of the latter two can be found in the journal Fritillary and details can be found on the Fritillary web site.

Early Gentian 
(Gentianella anglica)
Early Gentian (Gentianella anglica)

How the group works

Administratively the group operates by fortnightly lunchtime meetings. These have a formal agenda, and local members are encouraged to take responsibility for plants in their area. Annual meetings are held with Natural England and Plantlife to assess progress and plan future action. A charge is made for volunteer-hours which is used to fund travel, training and purchaseof tools and books. The accounts are audited and presented, with the newsletter as an annual report, at the AGM of the Ashmolean Natural History Society of Oxfordshire.

Work increases faster than we can cope with it; we are delighted to have promoted the formation of the Cotswold Rare Plants Group which works with us on Meadow clary, Salvia pratensis and Cotswold pennycress, Thlaspi perfoliatum and independently on other species. We also helped with the inaugural meeting of the Somerset Rare Plants Group. This makes us confident we have a format which can be developed and exported to play an expanding role in the UK response to the Rio Convention on biodiversity.

Our Partners

The Rare Plants Group works with many other agencies who are all listed on the page of related organisations.

Oxfordshire Rare Plants Register

In conjunction with the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre and the Botanical Society of the British Isles, The Rare Plants Group is working on a Rare Plants Register for Oxfordshire. Go to the Rare Plants Register page to find out more.

Flood-plain Hay-meadows of the Thames Valley

In 2007, we held a workshop on hay-meadows, spread over three Saturdays. The topics covered were so interesting and the material so useful that we are publishing the majority of it in a special edition of Fritillary, our on-line journal. Go to Fritillary to find out more about this.


Since 1996, the Rare Plants Group has published an annual newsletter. We're hoping to put our more recent ones on line. In the meantime here are some of them.

2007 newsletter

2008 newsletter

2009 newsletter

2010 newsletter

2011 newsletter

Main web design by Christopher Hoskin. Other design and maintenance by Frances Watkins.
Photographs by Frances Watkins,Camilla Lambrick, Kathy Warden, Peter Wakely, Susan Erskine, Ron Porley, Robert Barber, Phil Cutt.
Drawing by Elspeth Beckett.
For all rare plants group enquiries, please click here to email The Rare Plants Group.
Last update 25th January 2013