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Caithness Field Club


Vol. 1. No. 6. October, 1975.

K. Butler

On August 1st. the law relating to animals and plants was greatly strengthened by the passing into law of this act: it gives protection to six wild creatures and twenty one wild plants, and it extends and clarifies the law relating to wild plants generally.

Wild Creatures

Under the new Act it is illegal, except under licence or in a few other specified circumstances, to kill, injure or take, or to have in your possession any of the following creatures.

Greater Horseshoe Bat

Mouse-eared Bat

Sand Lizard

Smooth Snake

Natterjack Toad

Large Blue Butterfly

It is also an offence to sell any of these creatures, even if they are dead, including specimens that are in the form of skin or skeleton. These protected creatures and all species of bat must not be marked or ringed without possession of a licence issued by the Nature Conservancy Council. In fact none of the protected creatures occurs in Caithness.

Wild Plants

Wild plants are now protected by a specific Act of Parliament for the first time. Except under licence, or in a few specified circumstances, it is illegal to pick, uproot or destroy any of the following plants:

Alpine Gentian

Alpine Sow-Thistle

Alpine Woodsia

Blue Heath

Cheddar Pink


Drooping Saxifrage

Ghost Orchid

Killarney Fern

Lady's Slipper


Military Orchid

Monkey Orchid

Oblong Woodsia

Red Helleborine

Snowdon Lily

Spiked Speedwell

Teesdale Sandwort

Spring Gentian

Tufted Saxifrage

Wild Gladiolus

All of these plants are extremely rare and have suffered from collectors and gardeners. None of then grows in Caithness but several are in the Scottish mountains.

It will also be an offence for anyone who is not an authorised person to uproot any other wild plants. An authorised person is the owner or occupier of the land, a servant, or a person given permission by the owner or occupier. This means that anyone going out into the countryside can no longer dig up primroses, orchids or our favourite Primula Scotica. The law does not stop people from digging up weeds in their own garden where they are the owner or tenant, or from picking daisies or raspberries which they are not uprooting.


The public are exempted where it can be shown that a genuine error of identification has been made - and authorised persons are exempted and also those who have 'reasonable excuse'. There is a special section exempting farmers and foresters who are acting in accordance with good husbandry or forestry practice.

Its Local Effect

Although none of the Caithness animals and plants are (thankfully) rare or persecuted enough to be specially listed the Act allows us to take action against those people who we know take our wild orchids, Scottish primroses, Cowslips to put in their gardens or to take home from holiday. I hope that members will report any blatant cases of this sort to the local Police or to a Field Club Committee member who can ensure that action is taken.

Until experience shows what is necessary for a successful prosecution it seems wise to try to get:-

(i) a specimen of the uprooted plant to prove identity,

(ii) proof of the uprooting being done by two witnesses,

(iii) proof that permission was not given by the landowner or tenant.

By the way, you may uproot fungi, so your fresh field mushrooms are still available to you.

Ken Butler On Caithness.org