Oxfordshire Flora Group

Oxfordshire Flora Group

The Oxfordshire Flora Group (formerly 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.

NEW FLORA GUARDIANS ARE ALWAYS NEEDED. get in touch with the Flora Guardian Coordinator if you would like to become a Flora Guardian.

Membership of the ANHSO automatically confers membership of the OFG. If you would like to join, please complete the Membership Application Form and return it.

Group activities

  • work on our core list of species, e.g. Creeping Marshwort, Helosciadium repens
  • occasional work on other species, e.g. Breckland Speedwell, Veronica praecox
  • protection of species of local cultural or historical interest (e.g. Birthwort, Aristolochia clematitis and Wild Celery, Apium graveolens)
  • site-based surveys
  • public lectures and publicity to raise awareness
  • workshops and conferences
  • annual newsletter

The work on species and sites is organised by a system of Flora Guardians managed by a Flora Guardian Coordinator and a small committee which deals with administrative matters. New Flora Guardians are always needed; get in touch with the Flora Guardian Coordinator if you would like to become a Flora Guardian.

Wild Celery, Apium graveolens found on its historical site at Marcham

At the beginning of 2013, for various reasons, we reorganised the way we work. For many of our species we needed to alter the character of the work we do and the time was ripe to change the way the group operates and to widen the nature of our remit.

Accordingly we held a discussion meeting on the 27th April 2013. We were delighted in the interest shown at that meeting; there was a fruitful discussion and many useful suggestions were made. Many people showed interested in being part of the Group. Importantly, at that meeting, it was decided to change the name to the Oxfordshire Flora Group. The group’s remit would be:

  • Continue to work on species and sites (essentially the work of the Rare Plants Group)
  • Organise botanical walks for training in survey work and identification
  • Botanical recording for the BSBI Atlas 2020+.

An enlarged committee was formed and throughout 2013, work went forward on putting into place suitable systems which would enable the reconstituted group to function efficiently. This organisational work is now nearing completion and 2013 and 2014 also saw much of the usual work on rare plants continuing as before.

Work on Rare Plants and Habitats

Members of the Rare Plants Group enjoying a lunch break during a Rare Plants Register Hunt. Photo by Frances Watkins

The Rare Plants Group focussed its efforts on many 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


The Group runs an annual series of lectures on the conservation of plants in Britain and abroad, held by kind permission of Professor Ratcliffe 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, Helosciadium 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.

Also we hold regular meetings for Flora Guardians and occasional conferences, open to anyone interested.

How the group works

Early Gentian (Gentianella anglica)

Administratively the group operates by quarterly meetings. These have a formal agenda and the group has a formal constitution. Annual meetings are held with Natural England to assess progress and plan future action. A charge is made for volunteer-hours which is used to fund travel, training and purchase of 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.

Each plant or habitat has a “Flora Guardian” who coordinates work on the species or habitat and reports regularly by means of a “cloud” site. These reports are summarised annually in the newsletter.

The Rare Plants Group promoted the formation of the Wychwood Flora Group initially the Cotswold Rare Plants Group, which works with us on Meadow clary, Salvia pratensis and Cotswold Pennycress, Microthlaspi perfoliatum and independently on other species. We also helped with the inaugural meeting of the Somerset Rare Plants Group. We think that the format of these groups is an important tool which can be developed and exported to play an expanding role in the UK response to the Rio Convention on biodiversity.

Our Partners

The Oxfordshire Flora 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 Britain and Ireland, Oxfordshire Flora Group contributed to work on a Rare Plants Register for Oxfordshire, now published as Oxfordshire’s Threatend Plantsby Pisces Publications. 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 them all on line. In the meantime here are some of them.