Scottish HectAd Rare Plant Project

The Scottish HectAd Rare Plant Project (SHARPP) is a three-year initiative to learn more about notable Scottish plant species. It uses a similar population monitoring approach as the BSBI’s Threatened Plant Project.


  1. To resurvey populations of notable Scottish plant species not recorded since 2000 – despite over 20 years of intensive survey effort for Atlas 2020
  2. To collect information that will inform future national and local status assessments (e.g., County Rare Plant Registers) and improve our understanding of their ecology and reasons for decline.

Project Video

This talk on the Scottish HectAd Rare Plant Project, given at the Scottish Spring Conference in March gives a good overview.

Key points

  • Search for notable Scottish plant species populations in 10 km squares (hectads) where they have not been recorded since 2000
  • Focus on particular hectads with clusters of such records
  • Aim to visit at least one hectad in each county in each year…
  • To try to refind and record the target populations in it…
  • Collecting information on a standard recording card…
  • Involving local members and groups

Which species?

We’d like you to target plant species in the GB Red Data List (top four categories), National Status (Nationally Rare & Scarce), Scottish Biodiversity List and (optionally) in the County Rare Plant Register. You can see a full list of taxa in any of these checklists in the BSBI Database by clicking the link above, the “Items” tab then the “Taxon” or “Data” headers to sort. Here is a summary:

Category Abbreviation Number of taxa in Scotland
GB Red Data List: Critically Endangered CR 2
GB Red Data List: Endangered EN 31
GB Red Data List: Vulnerable VU 87
GB Red Data List: Near Threatened NT 65
National Status: Rare NR 196
National Status: Scarce NS 152
Scottish Biodiversity List SBL 212
Total number of distinct species 453

Which squares?

We would like County Recorders to used the BSBI Database to identify their own target squares and species. To do that:

  1. login to the BSBI Database then
  2. click this query,
  3. change the VC to theirs (in both parts of the query),
  4. run the query by clicking “display results”, wait for the results and
  5. save the BSBI Database page with the query, as a favourite in your internet browser, giving at a memorable name like “SHARPP”

To go back to it easily, click that favourite in your browser


  1. If you click the ‘Number of taxa specified in the query’ header twice that will sort them from highest to lowest.
  2. Then click the actual numbers alongside any 10 km square grid reference to see the target species records in that particular hectad to refind.
  3. And finally download the records so you can see any additional details for the records. If you tick the "conservation status" box, before you download, columns will be added giving details of conservation status.

Detailed Records

We would like you to collect much more than just present / absence information, by using a special SHARPP recording form which asks for detailed information on population size, extent, habitat, associated species, as well as management and threats and more. It would be great if you could sketch the location and layout of the population and take a photograph. There is detailed guidance on how to complete the form. We have indicated the minimum set of fields that you should complete by making the field titles blue and in bold.

Report all species searched for, found or not

It is just as important to complete the form - at least as far as the “Not refound” section - when a species has not been found as when it has been found. These negative records are required to give context to the successful refinds, and can be even more informative where it's difficult to understand the reasons for decline. This is why we ask you to suggest the most likely reason as to why the species was not refound.

Where surveyors fail to find the target species, we would really them to complete the form – at least as far as the “Not refound” section and give the reason why it was not refound. These negative records can be even more informative than positive finds, especially where it's difficult to understand the reasons for decline.


It is really important that you go out into the field well prepared after:

  • reading the detailed guidance
  • careful analysis of records in the BSBI Database - which County Recorders can download and supply to local botanists / groups
  • searches of any paper records, floras & checklists, where available, and after
  • buffing up on the target species on BSBI species accounts; the accounts in the Online Atlas of the British & Irish Flora and in identification books!


You’ll need your handlens, GPS & spare batteries, camera, recording cards, pencils and clipboard - Weatherwriter, or clipboard and plastic covering bag.

Involving local members - and non-members

This is the perfect project for all botanists, whether member or not, either individually, in small informal groups or in recognised ‘Local Groups’. But it is essential you liaise with County Recorders. Details of County Recorders and Local Groups. By involving local botanists, County Recorders can share the load, cover more hectads - and provide interesting ID and recording learning opportunities!

Local Hectads

If you select a hectad that is local to you or others who would like to be involved, that will help minimise the project’s carbon footprint.

Data Entry

We will digitise the records centrally.

Safety in the field

Everyone should read this guidance on Safety in the field before taking part. Note that, as always, BSBI volunteers participate in our projects at their own risk.

Questions about the project?

Check this list of SHARPP FAQ or contact Jim McIntosh, BSBI Scottish Officer.

Admiring hay meadow orchids in Glen Roy, Westerness by Ian Strachan
Norwegian Mugwort (Artemisia norvegica), Cul Mor by Simon Harrap
Hebridean Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza ebudensis), Lingeigh Corran Goulabaidh , North Uist by Mark Tulley
Admiring hay meadow orchids in Glen Roy, Westerness by Ian Strachan
Pyramidal Orchid (Ajuga pyramidalis) by Umberto Ferrando, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Greater Butterfly-orchid (Platanthera chlorantha) by Hazel Metherell
Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris) by Roy Sexton