Hundreds of volunteers are needed to take part in a vital, ground-breaking survey of the UK’s plantlife.

The new National Plant Monitoring Scheme which launched this month, will for the first time, enable scientists to take an annual stock take of the nation’s wild plants and their habitats.

Dorset is an area of particular interest as it is home to 7000 of some of the most interesting heathland, which is an internationally recognised Important Plant Area.

Hayley New from Plantlife explains: “The NPMS is hugely enjoyable and over 400 volunteers have helped us set up the new scheme. It’s easy to do and everyone will receive free training and guidance plus support from the partnership for volunteers who have queries, as well as web support and illustrated guidance notes – so volunteers will have the perfect survey tool kit to get them started!”

The survey will provide robust evidence of which widespread plants are increasing or declining, as well as indicating the changing state of some of the most valued habitats such as grassland, fenland and even road verges. Now the search is on to find 2000 volunteers to take part in the survey who will play a vital role in gathering information.

Together the volunteers will monitor wild plants in 28 important habitats, ranging from hedgerows and meadows to salt marsh and scree slopes.

Chris Cheffings, from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee says: “JNCC is delighted to be able to support the NPMS, which will fill this significant gap in UK biodiversity surveillance. The annual results collected by volunteers will help to identify trends in hundreds of species, allowing us to assess plant community changes.”

Plants are nature’s building blocks and this new monitoring scheme will sit alongside existing schemes for the UK’s birds and butterflies to help scientists understand more about how the countryside is changing.

Dr Kevin Walker, head of science, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) adds: “It’s really great to finally have a national scheme that everyone can take part in. Whether you simply love wildflowers or are a budding botanist, input from volunteers will provide sound evidence on how our wild plants and habitats are changing. It’s a fantastic achievement and should mean that wild plants are at the forefront of discussions on how our environment is changing and what we should be doing about it.”

Volunteers will be able to choose from three options depending on their level of expertise: recording from a short or an extended list of target species in each habitat or recording all species they find in their plots.

Volunteers will be given a 1km square with a grid showing up to 25 locations. Surveyors will be asked to visit three of those locations and carry out surveys in square plots and then identify two linear features such as hedgerows, rivers and road verges and survey these locations too.

Dorset is home to varieties such as purple moor-grass and cross-leaved heath as well as dwarf and common gorse.

  • For more information on the NPMS and how to take part, visit