England and Wales
The Wildlife and Countryside Act provides limited protection to all plants, as it prohibits the intentional uprooting of any plant without the landowner’s permission. However, this is not likely to have any implications on development sites. Certain, mostly very rare, species of plant are listed on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. These species are strictly protected from picking, uprooting, destruction or sale. A familiar species, the bluebell, also appears on Schedule 8, but is protected from sale only.
The protection for plants in Scotland is also under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. The protection is much the same except with additional offences of recklessly uprooting any wild plant and recklessly picking, uprooting, destroying etc any plant listed on Schedule 8.
The protection for plants in Northern Ireland is under The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, as amended. The protection given to plants is much the same as for Scotland, including the reckless offences, but with the additional offence of destroying any wild plant without the land owner’s permission.
The protection of plants in Ireland is provided by the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended by European Communities (Wildlife Act, 1976) (Amendment) Regulations 1985 and the Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000. The protection applies to specific species only, either throughout Ireland or in particular areas, as determined by the Minister. The Act makes it an offence to cut, pick, collect, uproot or otherwise take, injure, damage, destroy or sell etc any such species and also to wilfully alter, damage, destroy or interfere with the habitat or environment of any such species. This last clause goes significantly beyond the protection for Schedule 8 plants in the UK. The Act does not include a list of protected plant species; instead, this is provided by the Flora (Protection) Order 1999 (the earlier 1987 order has been revoked).