Commentary on Skye Natives 

Some definitions: Non-natives are plants that were brought to Britain by people, either intentionally, including crops and ornamental garden plants, or unintentionally, for example by being inadvertently mixed with crop seeds or imported on wool.


Within this ‘non-native’ category it is common to distinguish between plants brought to Britain before 1500 AD (called archaeophytes) or after 1500 AD (neophytes).


This distinction roughly correlates (in Europe at least) with the rise of repeated long-distance cross-oceanic trade, in other words, when species started to be moved frequently across biogeographical barriers. So the plants and animals brought to Britain by the Romans and the Normans are archaeophytes, whereas those brought here from the Americas or the Far East are neophytes.


This means that many familiar archaeophytes (e.g. arable weeds) are not included in the native list.


Starting Place: I have two lists of Plants Native to Scotland, one prepared by Chris Preston and one by the late Richard Pankhurst. There is a lot of overlap but also quite a few differences. I remember Chris being amused that after much thought and work he came up with a list of exactly 1000 plants. Richard’s list contains 1085 plants. There are 14 on Chris’s that are not on Richard’s and 99 that are on Richard’s but not on Chris’s.  However, if one takes out 64 archaeophytes on Richard’s list, the two lists become closer.


Fortunately, none of the 14 species unique to the Preston list are found on Skye (apart from one which is a nomenclatural issue).


Generating a list of plants known in VC104 is simple from the BSBI Distribution Database. Finding plants that are both on my Native Scottish Plants list and this VC104 list is easy with a spreadsheet. From the resultant list I then excluded those known only from the Small Isles by visual inspection. I ended up with a list of 595 plants.


I then started again by using the Vice-county Census Catalogue (VCCC). Here it is possible to generate a list of plants native to VC104 as given by this publication from 2003. This list has 731 plants on it. Once hybrids and microspecies are removed, subspecies dealt with and taxonomic changes accounted for, the list reduces to 584.


·         After taking account of taxonomic and nomenclatural issues, some plants curiously omitted altogether from VC104 in the VCCC (e.g. Carex arenaria, Isoetes echinospora , Salicornia…), the “final” list has 597 species.



Some Issues:


“Skye” needs to be defined – particularly with respect to the islands close to it. A number of plants are known in the Small Isles but not in the rest of VC104. In my view the Small Isles are a separate geographical unit. A few (now very few) native plants are known on one of the islands immediately around Skye but not on Skye itself e.g. Allium vineale (Wild Onion / Crow Garlic) on Raasay. I have used Vice-county 104 less the Small Isles.


Geography  Some plants are native to the geographical units Great Britain or the British Isles but not native to Scotland.  Some plants are native to Scotland but not to Skye e.g. Alliaria petiolata (Garlic Mustard) which has been introduced in a few places.


Politics  Presumably if Scotland were to gain independence, there would be changes to status e.g. Scots Pine would become a widespread alien in England and Wales as within the British Isles it is believed to be native only in Scotland. The Irish Peatland Conservation Council wants to treat the tree as a threatening invasive species, citing its presence on 29 raised bogs of the midlands, as unwelcome as the sprawl of rhododendron.

 (I am struggling to think of a reverse example at present, but there may be some…)


Uncertainty – The view on the status of a particular plant can change if new evidence emerges e.g. Chenopodium album (Fat-hen) has been described as native in one edition of Stace but as an archaeophyte in another edition.


Status of Records – some plants have been recorded on Skye only once or twice, often a long time ago, and never re-found.  Most of these are likely to be errors or casuals and therefore not native to Skye. However, there are teasers like a herbarium specimen of Carex saxatilis (Russet Sedge) from 1872 labelled “Skye”. In the British Isles this plant is only known from high up on the Scottish mainland, apart from this specimen. Is it labelled correctly (geographically)?

Also, for some plants such as Aquilegia vulgaris (Columbine) the native distribution now totally obscured by human activity.


Microspecies, Subspecies and Hybrids have been ignored in creating the list creating e.g. Hieracium agg., Rubus fruticosus agg., Taraxacum agg. This is unfortunate in some cases e.g. Circaea x intermedia (C. alpina x lutetiana) is our commonest Enchanter’s-nightshade and Potamogeton x nitens (P. gramineus x perfoliatus) acts pretty much like a species, but trying to categorise all the plants in these groups would be a nightmare. In the Rare Plants Register for the area (see here) I included two Equisetum hybrids (E. x font-queri and E. x trachyodon) that fulfil the criteria used by the JNCC for inclusion in the Red List and two endemic species of Hieracium (H. holosericeum and H. subglobosum) and perhaps these should be added to the Skye natives list too.  Appendices 1-3 show hybrids, subspecies and microspecies considered native to VC104 in the VCCC.  At present I have made no attempt to correct or update these lists or exclude those found only in the Small Isles.


Changes in taxonomy – The lists of Scottish native plants I used as a base were created when the three yellow-sedges Carex demissa, C. lepidocarpa and C. oederi were all treated as subspecies of C. viridula. Now they are back as separate species as they always used to be so these currently count as three native species. Changes of taxonomic status have also affected Trichophorum, Dryopteris affinis agg., etc.


Appendix 1 Hybrids Native to VC104 from VCCC (2003)


Atriplex glabriuscula x praecox

Euphrasia tetraquetra x marshallii

Atriplex x taschereaui

Euphrasia x difformis

Circaea x intermedia

Euphrasia x electa

Cirsium x wankelii

Geum x intermedium

Dactylorhiza x formosa

Mentha x gracilis

Drosera x obovata

Mentha x verticillata

Elytrigia x laxa

Polystichum x bicknellii

Epilobium x interjectum

Potamogeton x nitens

Epilobium x rivulare

Rosa caesia x sherardii

Equisetum x dycei

Rosa x dumalis

Equisetum x font-queri

Rosa x molletorum

Equisetum x litorale

Rosa x sabinii

Equisetum x rothmaleri

Rumex x hybridus

Equisetum x trachyodon

Rumex x propinquus

Euphrasia arctica x confusa

Salix caprea x phylicifolia

Euphrasia arctica x marshallii

Salix x ambigua

Euphrasia arctica x nemorosa

Salix x cernua

Euphrasia confusa x frigida

Salix x latifolia

Euphrasia confusa x heslop-harrisonii

Salix x laurina

Euphrasia confusa x micrantha

Salix x margarita

Euphrasia confusa x ostenfeldii

Salix x multinervis

Euphrasia confusa x scottica

Salix x sericans

Euphrasia frigida x scottica

Salix x subsericea

Euphrasia nemorosa x confusa

Sparganium x diversifolium

Euphrasia nemorosa x marshallii

Stachys x ambigua

Euphrasia nemorosa x micrantha

X Dactylodenia st-quintinii

Euphrasia nemorosa x scottica

X Dactyloglossum viridella


Appendix 2 Subspecies Native to VC104 from VCCC (2003)


Alchemilla filicaulis subsp. filicaulis

Juniperus communis subsp. communis

Alchemilla filicaulis subsp. vestita

Juniperus communis subsp. nana

Anagallis arvensis subsp. arvensis

Lapsana communis subsp. communis

Anthyllis vulneraria subsp. lapponica

Leontodon autumnalis subsp. autumnalis

Anthyllis vulneraria subsp. vulneraria

Luzula multiflora subsp. multiflora

Arenaria norvegica subsp. norvegica

Melampyrum pratense subsp. pratense

Armeria maritima subsp. maritima

Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea

Asplenium trichomanes subsp. quadrivalens

Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea

Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima

Montia fontana subsp. fontana

Betula pubescens subsp. pubescens

Myosotis laxa subsp. caespitosa

Bromus hordeaceus subsp. hordeaceus

Nymphaea alba subsp. alba

Bromus hordeaceus subsp. longipedicellatus

Nymphaea alba subsp. occidentalis

Cakile maritima subsp. integrifolia

Pedicularis sylvatica subsp. hibernica

Carex viridula subsp. brachyrrhyncha

Pedicularis sylvatica subsp. sylvatica

Carex viridula subsp. oedocarpa

Plantago major subsp. major

Carex viridula subsp. viridula

Polygala vulgaris subsp. vulgaris

Cochlearia officinalis subsp. officinalis

Polygonum oxyspermum subsp. raii

Cochlearia officinalis subsp. scotica

Potentilla erecta subsp. erecta

Cochlearia pyrenaica subsp. pyrenaica

Potentilla erecta subsp. strictissima

Cytisus scoparius subsp. scoparius

Pteridium aquilinum subsp. aquilinum

Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. coccinea

Pyrola rotundifolia subsp. rotundifolia

Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. pulchella

Ranunculus ficaria subsp. bulbilifer

Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. ericetorum

Ranunculus ficaria subsp. ficaria

Dactylorhiza purpurella subsp. purpurella

Ranunculus flammula subsp. flammula

Dactylorhiza traunsteineri subsp. lapponica

Ranunculus flammula subsp. scoticus

Daucus carota subsp. carota

Rhinanthus minor subsp. borealis

Deschampsia cespitosa subsp. alpina

Rosa caesia subsp. vosagiaca

Eleocharis palustris subsp. vulgaris

Rumex acetosa subsp. acetosa

Elytrigia juncea subsp. boreoatlantica

Rumex crispus subsp. crispus

Empetrum nigrum subsp. hermaphroditum

Salix caprea subsp. caprea

Empetrum nigrum subsp. nigrum

Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia

Euphrasia arctica subsp. borealis

Salsola kali subsp. kali

Festuca rubra subsp. arctica

Thymus polytrichus subsp. britannicus

Festuca rubra subsp. juncea

Trichophorum cespitosum subsp. germanicum

Festuca rubra subsp. rubra

Trisetum flavescens subsp. flavescens

Fumaria capreolata subsp. babingtonii

Urtica dioica subsp. dioica

Galium palustre subsp. palustre

Utricularia vulgaris agg.

Hedera helix subsp. helix

Veronica serpyllifolia subsp. serpyllifolia

Heracleum sphondylium subsp. sphondylium

Vicia sativa subsp. nigra



Appendix 3 Microspecies Native to VC104 from VCCC (2003)


Hieracium anglicum

Rubus hebridensis

Hieracium argenteum

Rubus latifolius

Hieracium caesiomurorum

Rubus leptothyrsos

Hieracium caledonicum

Rubus lindleianus

Hieracium chloranthum

Rubus mucronulatus

Hieracium cravoniense

Rubus nemoralis

Hieracium cymbifolium

Rubus plicatus

Hieracium diaphanoides

Rubus polyanthemus

Hieracium duriceps

Rubus pyramidalis

Hieracium ebudicum

Rubus radula

Hieracium eucallum

Rubus scoticus

Hieracium glandulidens

Rubus septentrionalis

Hieracium hebridense

Rubus sprengelii

Hieracium holosericeum

Rubus subinermoides

Hieracium iricum

Taraxacum brachyglossum

Hieracium langwellense

Taraxacum cophocentrum

Hieracium latobrigorum

Taraxacum cordatum

Hieracium lingulatum

Taraxacum dahlstedtii

Hieracium longilobum

Taraxacum drucei

Hieracium nitidum

Taraxacum duplidentifrons

Hieracium orcadense

Taraxacum ekmanii

Hieracium orimeles

Taraxacum euryphyllum

Hieracium pictorum

Taraxacum faeroense

Hieracium pollinarioides

Taraxacum fulvicarpum

Hieracium pseudostenstroemii

Taraxacum fulvum

Hieracium reticulatum

Taraxacum gelertii

Hieracium sabaudum

Taraxacum hamatum

Hieracium shoolbredii

Taraxacum haworthianum

Hieracium sparsifolium

Taraxacum insigne

Hieracium stenopholidium

Taraxacum landmarkii

Hieracium strictiforme

Taraxacum maculosum

Hieracium subcrocatum

Taraxacum naevosiforme

Hieracium subglobosum

Taraxacum naevosum

Hieracium uiginskyense

Taraxacum ostenfeldii

Hieracium uistense

Taraxacum polyodon

Hieracium vennicontium

Taraxacum sellandii

Hieracium vulgatum

Taraxacum stictophyllum

Rubus dasyphyllus

Taraxacum subbracteatum

Rubus dumnoniensis

Taraxacum subnaevosum

Rubus ebudensis

Taraxacum unguilobum

Taraxacum xanthostigma