Welcome Abigail Maiden: Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs - overseeing NPMS in Northern Ireland

At the start of autumn 2019, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) appointed a new scientific officer who will oversee the National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS) in Northern Ireland; Abigail Maiden.


Can you tell us about yourself – what were you doing before you came to the DAERA?

Interview with Volunteer Manager Dr Rachel Murphy

Summer is here and wildflowers have bloomed and for hundreds of plant-lovers across the UK,  it has been other busy season conducting surveys for the National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS). This habitat-based plant monitoring scheme which aims to collect data to help us understand more about how our wild flower populations are changing year on year.

Limber up and eyes down! It’s wildflower survey season…but what are the nation’s wildflowers telling us?

Spring is bursting all over, bolstered by the warmest February on record. Heralding longer days outside (perfect for surveying), blossom on trees and the return of colour and scent to our woodlands and verges.

On the first day of spring, initial findings from woodlands surveyed over four years as part of the National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS) show that the highly invasive, non-native Himalayan Balsam is reported more frequently than native wild flowers such as bugle, ramsons and woodruff.

NPMS Plot Portrait #1

Here at the National Plant Monitoring Scheme we are continually astounded by the energy, effort and enthusiasm of our fantastic volunteers, in order to celebrate the great naturalists who make the NPMS what it is, we have asked some of them to contribute combined "Plot Portraits" of both their NPMS squares and themselves! Here is the first in this series of getting to know the NPMS community!

Jon Marshall, NPMS Volunteer Surveyor North Somerset

National Plant Monitoring Scheme training days in Scotland by Jill Williams

We're back in the office after our 2017 series of training days in Scotland for the National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS), held in Dumfriesshire, Perthshire and the Cairngorms.

Here is a flavour of what was involved at the training days this year...

The morning session at each training day includes the background to the NPMS survey and what is involved in taking part. In small groups we look at example survey maps, to see how to find out what habitats are present, and how to choose where to locate small plots in which to record the NPMS wild flowers.

Come count with me by NPMS volunteer Katie Cameron

It's a mild day in May as we approach our designated square - a lovely location on the edge of the New Forest where woodland edges on to open fields. The survey is habitat based and our map suggests we have two key habitats to look out for – broadleaved woodland and lowland grassland. So far so good. The guidance notes and advice on the website suggest that recommend a visit to your site beforehand, but we have a fair idea of our site, passing it regularly to and from work.

Tackling the NPMS in the field: a lowland example

By now many of you will no doubt have made at least one visit to your NPMS square – we hope you have enjoyed the challenge! Don’t forget that the first visit is the hardest one, because choosing the plots is a key initial step in the National Plant Monitoring Scheme. Subsequent visits to a square will focus on monitoring your established plots, and also hopefully on continually improving your plant ID skills!

NPMS training kicks off!


Yes, the swallows are back, the meadows are being painted with lady-smock, and the first ever round of NPMS training is taking place! If you haven't already noticed, the National Plant Monitoring Scheme is offering a full schedule of training opportunities this year. Visit the training page to sign-up if you are an NPMS surveyor!