UK Species Inventory

Why Name Species?
Background to the UKSpecies project.[more]

Species Names
Origins of common and scientific names.[more]

Facts and figures about the project.[more]

More UK biodiversity resources.

Species assemblage

Facts, Figures and Frequently-asked Questions


  1. Species coverage
  2. Contributing Species Information
  3. Database Statistics
  4. About MIrel™ Databases
  5. Glossary

If your question is not answered here, or you require further information on any aspect of the project please contact

Species assemblage

1. Species coverage

Which UK species are included?

Primarily we aim to include records for all species which:

  • have been recorded in natural habitats in the UK, and;
  • have one or more common (vernacular) names.

A number of additional records are included covering:

  • common horticultural species that may easily spread to the wild state;
  • invasive species that may be accidentally introduced into the UK.

For a more complete breakdown of records by type see Database Statistics.

Which UK habitats are considered to be natural?

There is no single definition or list of natural habitats in the UK; infact the concept is different for different groups of organisms, reflecting both their dispersive abilities and reaction to human influences.

Generally we recommend that 'naturalness' is determined by the level of human interference. Whilst nowhere in the UK is from disturbance, some areas (eg. gardens, recreational parks) are obviously more intensively managed than others (eg. arable land, reserves). Plants in particular need careful consideration as species near populated areas may reflect horticultural preferences.

Natural Environments
flora all natural and semi-natural habitats
other habitats in the process of reverting to wild state (eg. waste and tailings)
fauna all natural and semi-natural habitats
other habitats in the process of reverting to wild state (eg. waste and tailings)
parks and gardens.
fungi all habitats.

Artificial Environments
flora gardens, horticultural areas, intensively managed parks, crop monocultures
fauna zoological gardens and farms

Where else can I find data for a particular species?

The current database may not hold information for a particular UK species if it falls outside the criteria listed above, or if we have not been able to locate appropriate data.

Other sources of information include:

  • The National Biodiversity Network;
  • The Natural History Museum;
  • The Marine Life Information Network (marine species);
    • MarLIN (
  • Internet search engines; eg.

Alternatively, more specialist information may be available from relevant organisations or societies listed under Links.

Species assemblage

2. Contributing Species Information

What information is useful to the project?

We are very pleased to receive any common names or additional species information which is missing or invalid. Where possible, information for single species should be submitted using the form provided; species lists may be emailed directly to

What information isn't useful?

Generally, we do not include:

  • information about Species which do not occur within the UK;
  • common names used by countries other than the UK.

We also try to avoid:

  • Generic names which apply to groups of organisms;
    'Stonecrop', 'Lanternfish', 'Shrew', 'Water flea'
  • common names which are too indiscriminately applied to be of use;
    'Dragonroot' (many plants with supposedly herbal properties)
    'Baby's Breath' (many plants with small white flowers)
  • Historical or highly local forms of common names.

However there are many exceptions to these rules - for example, potentially invasive species (which do not currently occur in the UK) are likely to become known by names used in their native countries. If in doubt, please submit it!

What happens to information that I contribute?

New information is checked and, if valid, incorporated into the UK Species database. This data is subsequently available as a free resource to all website users for personal or academic reference. The database is also used by Green Man Software Ltd (who own and manage the website) for development of user-friendly recording software.

Why hasn't the data I submitted appeared on the website?

New information is not added automatically to the UK Species database (for obvious reasons). Information is checked manually (which may take from days to weeks) before being incorporated into a new version of the database. This is uploaded the website at regular periods. As a result it may be several months before new information appears on the website.

A small proportion of perfectly valid information is not included in the database as it is not appropriate to the project aims (see above).

How can I contribute data for more than one species at a time?

The website form is designed for updating information about a particular species. If you wish to submit information for a number of species at one time, please arrange the data as a list, save the file in any widely-used software format (eg. MS Word/Excel/Access, OpenOffice documents, plain text) and email together with a brief description of contents to .

Species assemblage

3. Database Statistics

How many records are held in the database?

The current version of the database contains:

Total Species Records 13,438
Searchable Latin Names 15,367
Searchable Common Names 19,087

[The difference between the total number of Species records and Latin names is due to synonyms - see Naming Species].

However the flexible search methods used to query common names (which recognise numerous variations in spelling and punctuation) increase the effective data coverage substantially.

What is the breakdown by different groups?

A rough breakdown of the number of common names by taxonomic group gives some idea of how importantly these feature in everyday language;

Group Total number of
Common names
Fungi 1614
Higher Plants 8752
Insects and
Fish and
Mammals, Birds
and Reptiles

Unsurprisingly, the larger and more distinctive species (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and higher plants) together account for the more than two-thirds of common names, although these form relatively small proportion (less than one-sixth) of UK Species.

Group Estimated number of
Species in the UK
Species with one or
more common names
Fungi ~12,000 1,241 (10%)
Higher Plants ~5,200 5,018 (96%)
Insects and
~20,000 2,091 (10%)
Fish and
~500 483 (95%)
Birds and
~775 773 (100%)

The number of insects with no common name is perhaps not surprising, considering the number of poorly researched taxa (about 1500 species of Chalcid wasp alone occur in the UK) and often intricate life cycles of many species. The number of fungi (until recently nearly 95% had no common name) is more unexpected, given the prominent nature of many fruiting bodies.

Which Species have the most common names?

Some compendia claim to have compiled more than 200 common names for certain species; however on closer examination this generally includes a significant proportion of archaic and foreign (eg. American) names, aswell as some highly local forms that are not widely recognised.

The UK Species Inventory database is far from comprehensive, and we can only suggest some possible contenders based on our dataset. The examples given below do not include slight differences in spelling or punctuation which often occur in different regions.

Latin Name Common Names
Viola tricolor Wild Pansy
Bouncing Bet
Johnny jumper
Bird's eye
Cuddle Me
Cull Me
Godfathers And Godmothers
Herb constancy
Herb trinity
Herb trinitie
Herb trinitatis
Trinity violet
Seaside Pansy (sub-species)
Digitalis purpurea Foxglove
Common Foxglove
Folk's Glove
Ladies' Thimbles
Witches' Glove
Dead Man's Bells
Bloody Fingers
Cow Flop
Flabby Dock
Thimble Flower
Finger Flower
Salvia officinalis Garden Sage
Common Sage
White Sage
Red Sage
Broad-leaved Sage
Broad-leaf Sage
Narrow-leaved Sage
Narrow-leaf Sage
Aegopodium podagraria Ground Elder
Ground Ash
Herb Gerard
Bishop's Goutweed
Pope's Weed
Goat weed
Chenopodium album Fat Hen
White Goosefoot
Common White-blite
Wild Spinach
Dirty Dick
Achillea millefolium Yarrow
Common Yarrow
Milfoil Yarrow
Thousand-leaf Clover
Soldiers' Woundwort
Staunch Grass
Carpenters' Weed

The predominance of plant species (particularly herbs) indicates their relative importance in everyday life. It is also apparent that alternative names often relate specifically to different varieties or forms of the species.

Species assemblage

4. About MIrel™ Databases

A brief description of the MIrel™ Database.

Multiple-Index relational (MIrel™) database management systems offer a number of advantages which make them particularly suited for biological data;

  • handle multi-dimensional Table structures efficiently
  • use multiple, dynamic internal cross-referencing, aiding relational organisation;
  • broad range of supported data types, including whole documents, images and maps;
  • flexible schema representation, highly suited to desktop configuration.

MIrel™ database management systems are capable of storing >1 million records in a compact relational format.

How are MIrel™ databases relevant to biological data?

Species, families and many other biological names are frequently known by a number of synonyms. This can lead to difficulties in creating an efficient database design (schema): for example, consider a database table holding Species details with 3 columns (Scientific name, Authority, Common name) and n rows of species data (records):

RowScientific nameAuthorityCommon name
1Agaricus silvaticusSchaeff.Blushing Wood Mushroom
2Ajuga reptansL.Common Bugle
3Amanita magnifica(Fr.) Fr. 
4Amaranthus hybridusL.Slim Amaranth

Adding synonyms of scientific and common names:

  • Amaranthus hybridus is also known as Amaranthus chlorostachys
  • Blushing Wood Mushroom is also known as Red-staining Mushroom

clearly requires a further layer of data storage, generally resolved by relational referencing.

One unusual feature of MIrel™ databases is that they allow "three-dimensional" tables (eg. x Columns by y Values by z Rows) to be constructed and searched efficiently. This allows synonym data to be accommodated within the main table. They can also be configured to:

  • automatically associate synonyms with related fields, allowing fast bi-directional searching.
  • correctly represent subspecies, varieties and forms as subcomponents of the relevant species record, rather than as separate records.
  • represent aggregate species as groups of similar species.

These characteristics allow database structures to mirror biological classification systems relatively closely, simplifying data-handling at all stages. Custom hashing techniques (handling names as sequences of numbers) in the MIrel™ database also allows custom searching techniques (eg. fuzzy matching) to be applied to species names relatively easily.

Species assemblage

5. Glossary

Apomictic species

Plants that reproduce predominantly or exclusively by self-pollination or vegetative means. Offspring of apomictic species are clones of their parent: slight mutations in individuals can therefore lead to closely-related microspecies.

Casual (species)

A non-native species which occurs sporadically, and is not truly established in the UK (see naturalised species).


An individual or group of individuals which exhibits minor differences in one or more characteristics from typical members of a species, which may or may not be heritable. Forms often relate to differences in colour, for example melanism.


Offspring from two different parent species. Parent species may be in the same genus (interspecific hybrids) or different genera (intergeneric hybrids). Hybrids are denoted by including an 'x' in scientific names.

(also known as sibling or cryptic species)

Microspecies are visually very similar, however as they generally derive from uniparental reproduction (apomixis) they rarely exchange genetic material with each other. Microspecies are often indistinguishable except by experts in the field, and as a consequence grouped into "Species Aggregates" of closely-related populations.

Native (species)

A species which belongs naturally in the UK, having colonised by natural means.

Naturalised (species)

An alien (non-native) species that has become established in the UK by accidental or deliberate introduction.
eg. Rabbit, Evening Primrose


A species is a recognisable group which:

  1. is reliably distinguishable from other species
  2. interbreeds minimally with other species.

A species may be distinguishable in a variety of ways, including shape, size, colour, behaviour and molecular or genetic characteristics (to name a few). Interbreeding (the flow of genetic material) with other species must be expected to remain small even if geographical or other potential isolating factors are removed.

Recently recognition of non-darwinian gene flow (eg. apomixis) in populations has blurred the species concept somewhat.

Species aggregate

A group of closely related (generally apomictic) species that are difficult to distinguish visually.


Subspecies are taxonomic sub-divisions of a species, which usually arise as a consequence of geographical isolation within a species. Individuals belonging a particular subspecies differ in some way from other members of the species; however they continue to interbreed with other members of the species, and would merge into a single, population if geographical or other isolating factors were removed.


An individual or group of individuals which differs in one or more characteristics from typical members of a species, and which produces offspring with similar characteristics. It is used particularly to distinguish groups which exhibit ecological differences.

Species assemblage