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Instructions to Authors


If you are interested and knowledgeable about botany we would love to have your contribution to these species accounts. With at least 3,000 species to cover, there is more than enough work for everyone - only about 1300 British species have even a basic ecological account written about them. A list of all published accounts, compiled by David Pearman, can be downloaded here:-

>> Table of accounts (xls 7563kb)

This is an opportunity for anyone to write something original and creative - but you do not have to be an expert to make a valid contribution. What’s more, you can be credited for your work, as each account is individually acknowledged.

These accounts, which will be peer reviewed by us, are perfect for students from Masters level upwards, for university researchers, for amateurs and for anyone involved in conservation and land management.

What we are looking for in these accounts could be summarised in three points:

  1. - interesting and pertinent.
  2. - evidence-based and referenced.
  3. - speculative but unbiased.

Potential authors are urged to join the BSBI if you are not already a member. This will give you access to more sources of information, recent developments and discussion forums where you can air your ideas through other means.

The structure of the accounts

Each account has the same broad structure, with modifications to suit the species in question.


Current scientific name (with authority) plus any synonyms that one is likely to encounter (not intended as a comprehensive catalogue).

Common names that are in current use (again, not the place for a catalogue of names in other languages, except where relevant and useful).

Any relevant information infraspecific variation, hybrids, family, etc, if of interest.

Chromosome number (cite sources)


This section is often omitted or subsumed under taxonomy. It is not necessary if the identification is not difficult or if the books cover the subject adequately.

It is worth including if - for instance - photographs of key characters are not widely available elsewhere and they add substantially to the ability to identify the plant. In particularly complex cases, we can attach or hyperlink to other identification resources, and we may in future include pages on identification within genera.


Each account has shows a reduced-size hectad map which is generated directly from the Maps Scheme website and also hyperlinks to the full-size map on that website, so it is not necessary to produce a map or describe its distribution in detail. But comments validating the map (‘known to have disappeared from the north’) or providing meaning (‘absent from areas that were never wooded’) can be useful.

Authors of accounts are urged to scrutinise the Maps Scheme map carefully and help us to correct any errors. Distribution in the rest of the world is worth describing. We can hyperlink to GBIF if that helps. Do not use the distribution section to describe change and ecology or to make comments about its status.


In the past, ‘status’ has meant many things and has even been deliberately compiled from a wide range of attributes. In these species accounts we attempt to separate out each element of the status to increase clarity and accuracy.

  • Origin: this is the nativeness of the species to each part of the British Isles. The categories native, archaeophyte and neophyte are good ones to use (see New Atlas). Do not forget that there are no fewer than seven geographical/ political entities in the BI to consider (England, Wales, Scotland, Man, RoI, NI and Channel Isles). The nativity of a species is often a highly controversial issue. It is good to have a keen interest, and it is fine to have a personal opinion, but please leave them out of the account and stick to the facts. The best guide to establishing nativeness is to follow the New Atlas and Pearman 2007: ‘Far from any house’ – assessing the status of doubtfully native species in the flora of the British Isles. Watsonia 27: 271 -290.
  • Rarity: use the categories rare, scarce, local, widespread and common, combined with official rarity statuses such as Red Data Book and Nationally Scarce where appropriate.
  • Threat: this should perhaps be ‘change’, which can of course be positive as well as negative - although both are often seen as threatening. Useful sources of information include the Change Index in the New Atlas and Cheffings & Farrell (2005) for Britain.
  • Conservation: what most people really mean by ‘status’ is whether the plant needs to be protected or not, and in reality that boils down to its ecology. The UK BAP list is a starting point, but axiophyte status is what we are ultimately aiming for to define whether a plant is worth protecting or not.


So little is known about the ecology of most plants that you may have to work hard to find anything useful. This is good news for us, because it is what the species accounts are all about. Here are some suggestions:-

  • Lists of associated species are not needed.
  • It is often useful to start with a list of phase 1 habitats, but NVC communities are more quantifiable and can be debated and tested. By all means appeal for quadrat data if there is a paucity of information.
  • Rodwell’s NVC books (1991-2000) are an invaluable starting point, but are by no means comprehensive.
  • Grime, Hodgson & Hunt (2007) have some stimulating thoughts and accounts, but cover less than 300 species and comments often apply only in central England.

Further work

Here is where your imagination is really important. Examine all the current writings on your species and look for the holes. Is it thought to be native, but no-one has ever found pollen evidence? Then there is your ‘further work’ idea. Is it one of those BAP species that no-one really thinks is important? Invite people to study whether it is an appropriate species to include on the BAP. If you do not tell people that there are these questions to be answered, then how can you expect people to get to the right answer?


Try to reference every fact you state, as far as possible. Make sure the list of references contains all the most substantial and the most recent publications on your species, but do not attempt to catalogue everything that has been written. This is a reference list, not a bibliography. Note that all commonly used references are given on the Standard References page, so you do not need to reproduce those. However, you will have to supply all other references in the standard Harvard format as used in the other accounts. The following links are available:


We have given a short suggested citation for each account, to encourage good practice in referencing them. They do not include the full url, as that is prone to change, but are sufficient to allow any reader to trace the account. If an account is changed, you should be able to look up the relevant version on the Internet Archive.


Can be used to acknowledge people who have contributed photographs, ideas, or who have helped to write the account. People who have made a substantial contribution to this particular account (as opposed to publishing elsewhere) should be listed as co-authors.

Technical instructions

Send accounts attached to an email as unformatted text in Word documents or in some other word processing format. Do not supply your own html. Just send plain text. There is no need to highlight headers or italicise Latin names.

Photographs must be sent separately, not imbedded into Word documents. By all means send them at full resolution, but we will reduce them to about 100kb for the web pages.

Documents to be attached should be sent as Word documents or similar, fully formatted etc. If you can send a pdf and are confident that it is error free, then that is fine. Any such documents must be your own property or copyright free.

Comments & feedback 

If you are a registered user of the website you can append a comment to an account. Please try to ensure that you comments contain new, relevant and useful information. There is an advantage in making a comment in that you can more easily express an opinion. We rather hope they won’t become a forum for squabbling or upset people with strong feelings, but healthy debate is definitely to be encouraged. We may edit comments lightly and check the changes with the contributors to see that they are acceptable. Please understand that these accounts are intended to be semi-formal statements from the BSBI, not bulletin boards for endless debate. However, mistakes, errors and omissions do occur, so do please tell us about them.


The accounts are provided copyright-free and can be used by any reader. When an author submits an account to the BSBI they must be aware that they will not therefore retain ownership, and the BSBI is free to add and edit it as we like. In all probability, a future author will take over the account eventually and will attempt to acknowledge previous contributions, but we will not provide an exhaustive editorial trail.