An independent, non-commercial site to collect and disseminate information on the natural history of Shetland

contact us

About these pages

Nature in Shetland

winner of a Shetland Environment Award 2004


Endemic Plants of Shetland



There are 22 species and one subspecies of flowering plants which are only found in Shetland, although all bar one of these are dandelion-like plants.

Shetland Mouse-ear ('Edmondston's Chickweed') Cerastium nigrescens Now recognised as a full species (it was formerly regarded as a subspecies), this plant was discovered by the 11 year-old Thomas Edmondston in 1837. It only grows on Unst, most famously on and around the Keen of Hamar National Nature Reserve on the edge of Baltasound. It grows on one other hill on Unst and was reported on two other hills on the island in the 19th century but not since. In 1993, Dr David Slingsby estimated that about 7000 plants grew on and around the Keen.

Photo by Mike Pennington.

three species of dandelions Taraxacum geirhildae, Taraxacum serpenticola, Taraxacum hirsutissimum Dandelions are one of several groups of plants that produce new species quite readily and of the 65 different types of dandelion identified in Shetland, three are found nowhere else in the world: T. geirhildae grows in three sites in west and north Mainland and was first discovered by the eminent botanist W. H. Beeby in 1907, T. serpenticola grows only on Muckle Heog on Unst and was first found by Shetland botanist Walter Scott in 1980, while T. hirsutissimum grows in south Mainland as far as north as Cunningsburgh and was also discovered by Walter Scott, this time in 1968.

Photos of T. serpenticola by Paul Harvey (left) Micky Maher (right).

Shetland Mouse-ear Hawkweed Pilosella flagellaris bicapitata This is an endemic Shetland subspecies of another dandelion-like plant which is found rather locally in central Scotland and central England. The Shetland race was found by Walter Scott in 1962 and it is known from three sites: Whiteness, West Burrafirth and Ronas Voe.

eighteen species of hawkweeds Hieracium spp. The hawkweeds speciate even more easily than the dandelions and there are many subtly different species, often termed microspecies.

  • H. vinicaule is found mainly around St Magnus Bay on Mainland but also on Yell

  • H. northroense is found in North Roe and at one site in west Mainland

  • H. subtruncatum is found at several widespread sites on Mainland

  • H. dilectum is found at four sites in central and west Mainland

  • H. pugsleyi is found found at five locations between Yell and south Mainland

  • H. attenuatifolium is found only at Laxo in central Mainland

  • H. hethlandiae only grew at Mavis Grind on Mainland but is now extinct in the wild, although some plants survive in cultivation

  • H. praethulense only grows in north Mainland

  • H. australius is found around Loch of Cliff on Unst, beside the Wick of Tresta on Fetlar and in north Mainland

  • H. spenceanum is found in west Mainland

  • H. difficile is only known from Okraquoy in south Mainland

  • H. gratum is found beside the Loch of Cliff on Unst and Whale Firth on Yell

  • H. breve is only found at Ronas Voe in north Mainland

  • H. zetlandicum  is found in north Mainland and single sites in west and central Mainland

  • H. klingrahoolense is found in a few sites in central Mainland and on Yell

  • H. amaurostictum is found only at Semblisetter in west Mainland

  • H. scottii (named after Shetland botanist Walter Scott) grows near Sandness in west Mainland

  • H. ronasii only grows beside Ronas Voe in north Mainland

Left to right: the hawkweeds Hieracium australius and H. gratum at Loch of Cliff on Unst - Micky Maher; the hawkweed H. scottii at Sandness and the hawkweed H. amurostictum at Semblisetter - Paul Harvey

Johnston, J. L. 2007. Victorians 60o North. Shetland Times, Lerwick.
Scott, W., Harvey, P. V., Riddington, R. & Fisher, M. 2002. Rare Plants of Shetland. Shetland Amenity Trust, Lerwick.
Scott, W. & Palmer, R. 1987. The Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Shetland Islands Shetland Times, Lerwick.


This site is not directly connected to any of the organisations mentioned, so comments  may not necessarily reflect the views of the organisations, clubs or societies  involved. The pages on this website remain the intellectual property of the authors. They may be freely downloaded, quoted or used for any purpose, providing acknowledgement is given to the website and/or the author/s. No liability is accepted for the accuracy of this information.