Somerset Wildlife Trust

Work For Us|

Why Somerset is important for the UKs wildlife

  • Great White EgretSomerset is home to seven globally-threatened species including the Large Blue Butterfly

  • Many rare or local species such as the Otter, Dormouse, Lapwing and Stag Beetle are found here

There are 212 conservation priority vascular plant species. Of these 160 can be found in Somerset. This includes orchids such as the Frog Orchid, Meadow Saffron, and three species of endemic Whitebeam.

The South West contains over 20% (around 73,000 ha) of England's ancient woodland resource. Over 60% of Somerset's orchards have been lost in the last fifty years.

Native Black Poplar (Populas nigra subspecies betulifolia) is Britain’s most endangered species of large native tree. Male and Female trees are separate ­ there may only be 100 females in Britain; their absence is the species’ main conservation problem. There are about 800 trees in Somerset (200 in Taunton Deane), but no females have yet been found here. We probably have 10-15% of the nation’s trees of this species.

Somerset holds a significant part of the internationally important ravine woodland with small leaved lime.

There are 17 UK conservation priority terrestrial mammals found in England. Of these Somerset has 14 (we don’t have the species mountain hare, pine marten or red squirrel).

Amphibians & Reptiles:
From the 6 national amphibian species, we have 5:  Frog, Common Toad, Palmate Newt, Great-Crested-Newt & Smooth Newt.

Of the 6 national reptiles, we have 4: Grass snake, Adder, Common Lizard & Slow-Worm.

Butterflies & Insects:
The Mendip Hills are one of only a handful of strongholds for the Chalkhill Blue butterfly, which is rare in Somerset. The limestone grasslands found here are ideal places for Horseshoe Vetch to grow - the only plant that Chalkhill Blue caterpillars eat. The Trust is working with Mendip landowners to protect and enhance the local population by reconnecting fragmented habitats.

Sir David Attenborough was among those who attended a special event in Somerset to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the reintroduction of the Large Blue butterfly to Britain, an insect that became extinct in the country in 1979. Remarkably, Somerset’s Polden Hills are now the location of the largest concentration of Large Blues anywhere in the world.

The Somerset Levels is internationally important for its fresh water invertebrates. This includes the nationally rare Lesser Silver Diving Beetle.

The Somerset Levels provide an internationally important habitat for wetland birds, wintering wildfowl and waders, birds of reed bed and flood meadow, including Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Great White Egret, Gadwall, Wigeon, Lapwing, Bewick’s Swan.


Find out more about the report


Wildlife in decline nationally and locally

Oystercatcher_Ben Simmonds

Key threats to wildlife


Why Somerset remains special