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The DDb allows for great flexibility in searching for, viewing, mapping, summarising and downloading records.  To carry out searches you must be logged in.

Click on the search tab. This will bring up the search page.

While the DDb allows access to all plant records that the BSBI holds, there are some limits on the number of results that can be viewed or downloaded. Up to 50,000 can be viewed in the on-line results table. Guidance is provided on working with larger queries.

Search Criteria


The DDb has more than 9000 accepted species in its taxon dictionary. The taxonomy largely follows the 4th edition of Stace's Flora but many earlier names are available as synonyms  Starting to type in a name generates a list of possible taxa; select the correct one as it appears; it is not a scrollable list.  If you enter a synonym, eg starting to type Potentilla pal, the window prompts you to select Potentilla palustris = Comarum palustre. 

Selecting this option, the taxon tab shows the name Potentilla palustris, but when the query is run (click on the display results button), the displayed records will have Comarum palustre as the taxon name.

There is a wealth of information to be found in the Results Table once you have clicked Display Results - see Reviewing the results table for an introduction

You can search for more than one taxon at a time by either; clicking on the green plus (+) sign at the far right end of the taxon line; or by entering additional taxon names separated by commas (,) or semi-colons (;).

Genus and Family can also be used in searches.

You can also search by abbreviating the genus to just its initial letter, followed by just as many letters of the species name as it takes to narrow the options down until you can see and select your intended species. Useful for long and hard-to-spell genus names. Try searching for “S aut” for Scorzoneroides autumnalis or “S palu” for Scheuchzeria palustris for example.

Searching by common/vernacular name

If you search by a common/vernacular name in the taxon field, suggestions of matches to taxon will be provided and you can select the best match for your search.

If you would like to display the common/vernacular name in the results table (and this isn't already happening) then you can click on My Details in the top menu bar, and in the Search preferences panel make sure include taxon vernacular names in search results is ticked.

The common/vernacular name will also be displayed in any CSV/Excel download of results.

Grid reference

In queries, grid references are accepted in OS (Ordance Survey) or OSI (Ordance Survey Ireland) formats.  Tetrads searches are allowed, in DINTY format, but searches for records within Quadrants (5 x 5km squares) are not possible. 

Grid references can be entered manually or by using the pop-up grid reference selection tool, which also includes a gazetteer search capability. You access this by clicking on the map icon to the right of the grid reference text box.

The selected point on the air photo above is the car park at Pitlochry train station.

The pop-up window can be resized and zoomed in or out and the basic mapping can be changed to an air photo.  Clicking on the map or image creates a list of grid references at varying precision; from hectad, tetrad, monad, 100m down to 10m (8 figure), from which you can select the grid reference to use.

The default is to use a grid reference as a grid square. In the example below only the three records of Galium uliginosum whose grid references fall within the square defined by NJ45 are returned when the query is run. 

search for Galium uliginosum in grid square NJ45: click to see the query in the DDb (login required)

Additional grid references can be added to a query by clicking on the green plus (+) sign at the far right end of the grid reference row in the query.  The query then finds records of a taxon in any of the squares defined by the list of grid references.  Alternatively, a list of grid references, separated by commas (,) or semi-colons (;) can be entered.

Grid reference can also be used as the centre (centroid) of a search area. In the example below, SJ67230339 is the centre of the world famous ‘Iron Bridge’ in Ironbridge, Shropshire (vc40).The radius of the circle is in metres.  The default is 5000m; change this to your preference. Here we have changed it to a 1000m radius, returning (as of September 2023) 10572 records.

search for centroid SJ67230339 with 1000 metre radius: click to see query in the DDb (login required)

Using grid reference as a centroid finds all records whose site grid reference (which defines a square), falls within or overlaps the circle defined by the centroid and radius.  This is why in the above example (a 1km radius search area) there are records for 4 tetrads and a hectad.  These large squares overlap the smaller search area.  If you wish, records with coarse precision site grid references can be excluded from a query, (see section on Locality (precision) below.)

County / region

As well as vice-county, there are options for grouped vice-counties, eg. Perthshire (VC 87, 88 and 89) or Yorkshire (VC 61 – 65), and for the individual countries, Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland.  The latter refers to the whole island of Ireland (VC H1 – H40).  Running a query for records from one or more vice-counties returns records with that vice-county listed in the vice-county field in the record.  Alternatively, and really only for more specialist purposes such as record validation, vice-county can be entered as a Bounded area (see below).

Date recorded

The date can be entered in dd/mm/yyyy, mm/yyyy or yyyy formats.  The database copes with formats such as 1/2/13 meaning 01/02/2013. 

Use equals for an exact match, or use the pull down to select other options. The date entered can be used a start date (using the from option) or end date (using the to option) , and a date range can be used (using the between option). 

The drop down list also includes standard BSBI date ranges.

Checklist / attributes

Checklists provide a general-purpose way of grouping or applying attributes to records when running queries. Checklists consist of a set of 'key' values which link to a field (e.g. a taxon name). Each item in the checklist set may optionally have a data value associated with each key.

A wide range of checklists are available.  The list of available Checklists is viewed by clicking on the grey rectangle with three dots next to the checklist/attributes field.

Two sets of available Checklists of particular interest to Vice County Recorders will be Conservation status and County Rare Plant Registers

Conservation status

The list of Conservation status checklists is shown below.

Conservation status checklists

Another way to filter by Conservation status is to use more options > attributes > conservation status summary

This provides a series of options for filtering by conservation statuses:

Rare Plant Registers

The list of County Rare Plant Registers is also available from the main checklist - more detailed guidance is available on this website.

The list of taxa included in a County Rare Plant Registers can be selected by clicking on the grey square with ‘...’ to the right of checklist/attributes and selecting County Rare Plant Registers.

Using vc67 (South Northumberland) as an example, the query below lists the number of RPR qualifying taxa recorded per monad since 2000.

You must enter a vice county into the county/region field as well as selecting the Rare Plant Register in the checklist/attributes field. Normally the vice county selected should match the County Rare Plant Register.

query showing the number of RPR qualifying taxa recorded per monad since 2000: click here to see in the DDb (login required)

The query, below, lists the number of monads in which each RPR taxon has been recorded in VC67 (South Northumberland) since 2000.

query to lists the number of monads in which each RPR taxon has been recorded in VC67 (South Northumberland) since 2000: click to see query in DDb (login required)

The Rare Plant Register taxa list can be used in conjunction with a bounded area; in this example all SSSIs in VC48 (Merionethshire).  The query below returns all records of taxa in the VC48 RPR that have site grid references at 100m precision or better, and that fall within or overlap the boundary of any SSSI.

search for all records of taxa in the VC48 RPR that have site grid references at 100m precision or better, and that fall within or overlap the boundary of any SSSI: click to see the query in the DDb (login required)

This query can be changed to return all records that do not overlap any SSSI by changing include this area in the bounded area clause to exclude this area (highlighted in yellow below).

search for all records of taxa in the VC48 RPR that have site grid references at 100m precision or better, and that do not overlap any SSSI: click to see the query in the DDb (login required)

The Rare Plant Register taxon list can also be used within a bounded area defined as a radius around a central grid reference.  The query below returns all records of taxa listed in the Cairngorms National Park RPR, that have site grid reference precision at 1km or better, and that are within or overlap a 1.5km radius of the National Park office in Grantown on Spey.

query to return all records of taxa listed in the Cairngorms National Park RPR, that have site grid reference precision at 1km or better, and that are within or overlap a 1.5km radius of the National Park office in Grantown on Spey: click to see in DDb (login required)

Guidance for Vice County recorders is provided on importing rare plant registers to the DDb.

Axiophytes and PLANTATT

The Axiophytes checklist is now available for many vice counties. The County Rare Plant Registers and Axiophytes checklists should always be combined with the relevant vice-county (or bounded area, below) within queries.  It would not usually be appropriate to search for records of taxa listed in a CRPR that are in a different vice-county.

The PLANTATT checklist refers to ‘Attributes of British and Irish Plants: Status, Size, Life History, Geography and Habitats’ by Mark Hill et al.  Please refer to the online version for explanation of coding and meaning of terms -

Examining a checklist

Once a checklist has been selected, a show checklist details icon appears (as marked by the red arrow below).

Clicking on the show checklist details icon brings up a new page which shows information about the checklist.

GB Red Data List (2021): click to see the checklist in the DDb (login required)

Clicking into the items tab displays a list of included taxa or attribrutes.

In the data column are listed the ‘values’ that can be included in a query.  So for example to find records of all taxa recorded in Wiltshire that are listed as ‘Near Threatened’ in the GB Red List you would enter ‘NT’ in the ‘value’ field of the query.

search for records of Near Threatened species in Wiltshire: click to open the query in the DDb (login required)

If you wanted all taxa listed, you would leave the ‘value’ field blank.

So for example, to find all records from Orkney of plants included in the Orkney Rare plant register, the query would look like this:

Search for Orkney records in Rare Plant Register: click to open the query in the DDb (login required)

Filtering by bounded area

Bounded areas are polygons defining the boundary of an area.  Currently the DDb has boundaries for all SSSIs, ASSIs, NNRs and for three National Parks (Cairngorms, Yorkshire Dales and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs).  In addition, vice-county boundaries can be used as bounded areas, which is useful in some types of searches.  It is intended that a more extensive range of bounded areas will be provided in the future.  At the moment it is not possible for the DDb user to upload their own bounded areas, but this may be an option in the future.

You can search for all areas in the DDb to see what is available.

The DDb can carry out spatial queries using bounded areas, in a similar way to GIS.  Options available are:

  • Area type. Allows searches of all bounded areas within a category. Fully implemented at the time of writing are SSSIs, NNRs and Natural Improvement Areas.
  • Include this area (default) or exclude this area.
  • Include intersections (default) or contained within. Intersections refers to overlap of the grid square defined by the record’s site grid reference and the boundary of the bounded area.
  • Buffer. Add a buffer (in metres) around a bounded area (default is no buffer).
  • Set grid square resolution at which to test for overlap. Default is maximum; options are 1km or 100m square resolution. As currently implemented, setting this option, eg. to 1km, does two separate things. It restricts the query to returning records at 1km precision or better, and returns records that are outside the boundary, if they fall within a 1km grid square that overlaps the boundary.

A couple of examples will help to clarify how these bounded area options work in queries.  (Results were correct when the queries were originally run in September 2023).

Monad NJ1830 (in vc94) is bisected by the Cairngorms National Park boundary (see map below).

Monad NJ1830 (shown as blue square); 100m grid cell NJ182306 (green square); Cairngorms National Park Boundary (shown in yellow).  Source

A simple query for all records within the monad returns 332 records.

search for monad NJ1830: click to see the query in the DDb (login required)

Adding ‘Cairngorms National Park’ as a bounded area, accepting the default of ‘include intersections’ returns 291 records.

search for monad NJ1830 with Cairngorms National Park as bounded area: click to see the query in the DDb (login required)

If we click into the zoomable map tab in the results panel, we can see where these records are located.

The 291 records for monad NJ1830 (blue square) intersecting Cairngorms National Park (black boundary lines) in the Zoomable Map tab

Hence there are 41 records within this monad that fall entirely outside the National Park boundary.  To view these records, change include this area to exclude this area.

search for monad NJ1830 with Cairngorms National Park as excluded bounded area: click to see the query in the DDb (login required)

Again, we can see these records in the zoomable map tab.

The 41 records in monad NJ1830 that fall otuside the National Park boundary in the Zoomable map tab

To view those records whose site grid reference falls entirely within the National Park, change back to include this area and change include intersections  to ‘contained within’.  This returns just 16 records, which suggests quite a number of records fell just outside of the strict boundary.

A set of queries for records from Mill Wood, a SSSI in vc94, help illustrate how buffers work.  The wood lies entirely within monad NJ4550. 

Mill Wood SSSI (green hatch); Equisetum hyemale (Rough Horsetail) site (red arrow).  Source:

A search for records from that monad returns 912 records, and of these all but a small number of records have ‘Mill Wood’ in the site name. 

search for monad NJ4550: click to see query in DDb (login required)

However the wood is more extensive than the SSSI itself.  Searching on Mill Wood as a bounded area and choosing ‘contained within’ returns just 75 records.

Screenshot of search for Mill Wood as a bounded area: click to see in DDb (login required)

A notable re-find here was that of Equisetum hyemale in 2012, the first record for at least 100 years.  Looking at the results of the query showed that this record was missing. Knowing that the person who made the record would have taken a detailed GPS grid reference, suggested that the record was actually outside the SSSI.  Retaining the ‘contained within’ option in the query, but adding a buffer of 50 metres returned 150 records, including the 2012 record of E. hyemale.

search for Mill Wood as a bounded area with 50 metre buffer: click to see in DDb (login required)

The Equisetum has a 10 figure site grid reference, and varying the buffer in small steps shows that the plant is actually 42 metres outside the SSSI boundary!

More options

Clicking on the more options drop down arrow reveals a number of additional options, some with further drop down arrows. We will explore these additional options in the Advanced Searching page.

Getting your results

Once you have refined your critiera, you can receive the results of your query in a number of ways.

  • Clicking display results will immediately display the results on the page in a results table. This is ideal for simpler queries.
  • Clicking on email results or download results will bring up a panel with options for the downloadable/emailable file
  • Clicking save query allows you to save a query for later use.
  • Clicking reset search form clears the form so a new query can be created.

There is more information about the options for emailing and downloading results and Stored queries (which is where your query goes if you save it).