Statutory protection
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Legal protection for plants

Wild plants have protection under the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. The Act deals with protecting our plants from both deliberate damage, and habitat destruction by the introduction of competitive alien species. A few plants are regarded as 'European' and are protected under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994. 

In addition, plants derive some protection from earlier, more general, legal provisions. Since plants are someone's property, interfering with or damaging them could theoretically lead to a civil action for damages. Unfortunately it has not yet been established that wild plants have any value so such an action is unlikely to succeed. 

The Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981

Definitions of 'picking, 'uprooting', 'sale', 'wild plant', 'authorised person' and 'vehicle' are given in Section 27(4). 

Section 13(1)(a) states that it is an offence for anyone to 'intentionally pick, uproot or destroy any wild plant on Schedule 8'. 

Section 13(1)(b): 'It is an offence for any unauthorised person to intentionally  uproot any wild plant'. Note that this includes all wild plants, protected or otherwise. 

Dealing in all wild plants is forbidden under Section 13(2)(a), in an attempt to prevent a market in endangered  plants. It is an offence to: 'sell, offer or expose for sale or possess or transport for the purpose of sale any live or dead wild plant (or any part of or anything derived from such a plant) on Schedule 8', and, under Section 13(2)(b) to: 'publish or cause to be published any advertisement likely to be understood to convey that he buys, sells or intends to buy or sell any plant on Schedule 8 or any part of or anything derived from such a plant'. 

So what is on Schedule 8? It lists all the wild plants which are specifically protected from intentional picking, uprooting and destruction. It includes ferns, lichens  and mosses as well as vascular plants. Click here for the list.

To protect plants from habitat destruction by competition from more aggressive plants, Section 14(2) makes it an offence to 'plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild any plant on Schedule 9 (Part 2)'. The list is here, and contains mostly seaweeds. 

Section 18 (1) states: ' If any person attempts to commit an offence under sections 13 or 14, or for the purposes of committing such an offence, has in his possession anything capable of being used for committing the offence, he shall be guilty of an offence and may be punished as if he had committed the full offence'. 

Sections 19, 20 and 21 deal with the legal process. 

European plant protection

The following plants are protected under European legislation, as enacted in Britain by the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994: 

Dock, shore 
Fern, Killarney 
Gentian, early 
Marshwort, creeping 
Naiad, Slender 
Orchid, Fen 
Plantain, Floating-Leaved water 
Saxifrage, Yellow Marsh 

Criminal damage

If it can be shown that plants have a value, as having been planted as part of a scheme, for instance, then an action for criminal damage may succeed. This, of course, excludes wild plants. 

Under Scottish law,  damage to flowers or plants on someone's property may be punishable as vandalism under the Criminal Law (Consolidation)(Scotland) Act 1995, section 52 or as the common law crime of malicious mischief. 


Only if someone picks wild flowers, fruit or fungi for reward do they commit theft (section 4(3) Theft Act 1968). If they uproot an entire plant a charge may also be possible.