|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
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
Plantain, Floating-Leaved water
Saxifrage, Yellow Marsh
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.