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The Law and Wild Plants

You can photograph any plant, however this should not involve digging up plants or removing any part of them.

You should not have problems in collecting leaves of common trees, fire cones, conkers or the like, together with twigs or branches that have fallen.

While most of us can see there could be some disturbance caused if you were not careful when photographing birds and animals, perhaps we have not considered there to be any harm that could be caused by photographing plants.  

Providing that we don’t pick or transport them to another location, the largest risk I can see is not to the plant you are photographing but similar ones that are under your feet, your camera bag or tripod.  In many cases of course rare plants by their nature are thinly spread and as such this is not too great a problem. 

The act says ‘It is an offence deliberately to pick, collect, cut, uproot or destroy a wild plant of a European protected species.’  As you have to have deliberately done it putting your camera bag in the wrong place should not get you into trouble.

Quite a number UK police websites have information on the crime of digging up wild Bluebell and Snowbell bulbs.

You would probably need a licence, for example, to collect seeds from wild Bluebells in a wood although they are not included in the protected list below.  To see where licences are obtained from see the longer article on Wildlife Photography and the Law.

From The UK Government DEFRA website:-

All wild plants included in schedule 8 are protected against unauthorised uprooting under Section 13 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Even non-vascular plants (which have no roots) are protected, because uprooting is defined as removal from the site.

Plants Protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act

Plants listed on Schedule 8 of the Act have special protection against picking, uprooting, destruction and sale. The Schedule is reviewed every five years, but as at January 2008, it contains 107 vascular plants, 33 bryophytes, 26 lichens and 2 stoneworts. These include vascular plants, mosses, liverworts and hornworts, lichens and charophytes (stoneworts).

More details can be found on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee website.

Plants that licences to pick/move/disturb is required are:

  • Creeping marshwort

  • Early gentian

  • Fen orchid

  • Floating leaved water plantain

  • Killarney fern

  • Lady’s slipper orchid

  • Shore dock

  • Slender naiad

  • Yellow marsh saxifrage

Other Sources

A full list of protected plants can be seen at http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-1816

Plantlife - The Plant Conservation Charity is at  http://www.plantlife.org.uk/

See also our pages:

Where to Photograph UK Wild Plants - A list of venues in England currently, where you can get to see wild plants and photograph them. Many are Nature Reserves or similar places where on a visit you are likely to see them.

Nature and Wildlife Calendar for when particular fauna opportunities are available to you.

Where to Photograph Snowdrops - a list of places where snowdrops carpet the grass.

Snowdrop Valley - a woodland area in Somerset where visitors are encouraged to come and see the snowdrop carpets, with small flowing brook, and the provision of a bus service on set dates to get you to the beginning of your walk.


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