Flora of North Lancashire by Eric Greenwood. Lancaster: Carnegie Publishing, 2012. 640 pp. Hardback. ISBN 978-1-874181-89-7. £50.00.


  • M. F. Fay

This limited edition publication is an attractively produced and illustrated addition to the list of recently published UK regional floras (see, e.g., Chater, 2010, and review by Fay, 2011a). North Lancashire, despite two cities (Lancaster and Preston) and a relatively crowded coastal area centred on Blackpool, includes some of the wildest areas still to be found in England. Limestone areas in the south-eastern part of the Lake District, the varied inland landscapes of the Forest of Bowland, parts of the Yorkshire Dales, the Lancashire Plain and Valleys and Morecambe and Liverpool Bays all fall (at least in part) within the geographical scope of this book. Covering ‘Lancashire VC [vice-county] 64 north of the R. Ribble’, due to changes in administrative areas there is some overlap with the Plant atlas of mid-west Yorkshire (Abbott, 2005), the first significant botanical publication for the general area since those of Pickard (1901, 1902).

The book starts with a scholarly chapter on ‘the evolution of a landscape and its flora’. Starting with a discussion of the coastal changes following the retreat of the ice c. 12 000 years ago, it includes discussion of prehistoric and historical land use for agriculture, land enclosures in the 17th to 19th centuries, etc., and how these have affected the vegetation.

The second chapter covers habitats and plant communities with descriptions of these under the general headings of woodland and scrub, mires, heaths, grasslands, arable weeds, wetlands, coastal communities and urban and post-industrial sites. Some of these cover a wide variety of habitats (lowland v. upland, acid v. alkaline, etc.); as a result, the region is a rich patchwork of different ecosystems.

The third chapter presents the catalogue of taxa (including lycophytes, ferns, conifers and flowering plants; natives, archaeophytes and neophytes) and occupies the largest portion of the book. The taxonomy largely follows that of Stace (2010), in turn a minor variation of the APG III system (APG III, 2009; see Fay, 2011b). However, Greenwood's usage varies from that of Stace in places; for example, he uses Amaryllidaceae (conserved over Alliaceae as used by Stace; see Fay, 2011b) and Dactylorhiza viridis (L.) R.M.Bateman, Pridgeon & Chase, as preferred by most current orchidologists (e.g. Pridgeon et al., 2001), in place of Coeloglossum viride (L.) Hartm.

Each account includes scientific and common names, the floristic element to which the taxon belongs and notes covering frequency (seven categories from ‘extinct’ to ‘very common’), occurrence in the region and changes in distribution in the region and nationally. Maps are presented for most taxa that have been found in six or more tetrads (2 km × 2 km squares) since 1964. Many of these maps can be found on the same page as the taxon account, but a significant number fall on pages before or after the account due to the format of three maps per page. More than 2000 taxa are included and, as would be expected, most of these are widespread outside the region covered. A notable exception is the endemic Sorbus lancastriensis E.F.Warb., a tetraploid species in the S. aria (L.) Crantz aggregate only found on the limestone around Morecambe Bay; it is the only endemic microspecies in Sorbus L. in the north of England [see Ennos et al. (2012), Pellicer et al. (2012) and references therein, for further details].

The fourth chapter is entitled ‘Characterising the northern Lancashire flora’ and includes a discussion of the number and frequency of taxa found in the region. Of the 2089 taxa covered, 841 occur in fewer than five tetrads and the taxonomically complex Hieracium L., Rubus L. and Taraxacum F.H.Wigg. alone make up > 10%. This discussion is followed by an analysis of the distributions of taxa relating to rarity, climatic and habitat preferences, floristic elements (predominantly northern v. oceanic and southern or Mediterranean species), geology etc.

The final chapter, ‘The changing flora’, includes discussion of modern extinctions, decreasing and increasing species and naturalized introductions. Newly discovered species (natives and archaeophytes) in the region since 1964 include 15 that are believed to have spread naturally into the region; Umbilicus rupestris (Salisb.) Dandy (first recorded 2006) and Mibora minima (L.) Desv. (first recorded 2007) are recent examples. The book concludes with a comprehensive bibliography and an index of scientific and common names.

I strongly recommend this book for botanical libraries in the UK and personal libraries of those, like me, who enjoy botanising in northern England.