2023 County Report for West Sussex, East Sussex

Nevil Hutchinson & Ruth Eastwood

This is the first report for Sussex for some time. The previous VCRs both retired in 2017. In 2019 I took on the role of Records Officer for the Sussex Botanical Recording Society (www.sussexflora.org.uk) in order to process and submit records in time for the Atlas 2020 project. Last year I took on the VCR role for East Sussex and added West Sussex later in the year.

I have now been joined by Dr Ruth Eastwood, who will be taking on the role of Assistant VCR across both vice-counties. 

Sussex botanists have remained active since the last major project, the publication of The Flora of Sussex (2018). Two monographs have been published: The Stoneworts of Sussex Frances Abraham (Sussex Botanical Recording Society 2020), and The Black Poplar in Sussex Frances Abraham and Kate Ryland (The Sussex Black Poplar Working Group 2022). We have also undertaken surveys of churchyards and village greens, coordinated by Helen Proctor and Jacqui Hutson respectively.

An ongoing survey, coordinated by Dr Ruth Eastwood and Paul Harmes, is looking at how Marsh Gentian Gentiana pneumonanthe is faring in the county. We now have three years of data and plan to continue collecting for at least another two years. Although preliminary, the findings suggest that it has been lost from some sites, with very small numbers remaining in one site away from its stronghold in Ashdown Forest. 

A survey of Lesser Water Plantain Baldellia ranunculoides ssp. ranunculoides by Alex Worsley and his team at the Sussex Wildlife Trust discovered more than 2000 plants at the Castle Water SSSI near Rye, East Sussex. Although known at this site for many years, the numbers makes it one of the most important populations in the UK.

Marsh Gentian Gentiana pneumonanthe (Photo: Dr Nick Sturt)

This year our main focus has been on updating our Rare Plant Register, first published in 2001. We have identified nearly 500 taxa that are of national and local significance. So far we have records for 340 taxa since 2017.

In the New Year we will be creating a monthly RPR update detailing species which are ‘out and about’ in the following month, with details of areas to search. We also have a Rare Plant Register section on the website where we’ll be posting regular updates.

The table below gives a summary of recording using our Excel Recording Card (ERC) and iRecord. The ERC is a macro-enabled spreadsheet developed by one of our members. We no longer update it but many members still prefer to use it over iRecord, which is now our main method for recording.


2021 2022 2023
VC13 ERC 5215 6353 7730
VC13 iRecord 2500 3500 5400
VC14 ERC 7556 6807 41*
VC14 iRecord 6300 7000 9500

* Table produced before the majority of ERC users returned records for the year.


Phleum arenarium (Sand Cat's-tail)

Refound at East Head by Bob Wardell with a range of other important dune species for Sussex where this habitat is rare. Vulpia fasciculata (Dune Fescue), Elymus farctus (Sand Couch) and Eryngium maritimum (Sea Holly) were amongst the other taxa.

Photo: Bob Wardell

Sagina subulata (Heath Pearlwort)

In an area of coppiced Castanea sativa (Sweet Chestnut) near Petworth, West Sussex. Other taxa included Gnaphalium sylvaticum (Heath Cudweed), which is not known in East Sussex.

Photo: Nick Sturt