Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Flora Scotica
By The Rev. John Lightfoot (1777)

A description of Scottish Plants. An old publication in 2 volumes where the letter s is shown as the letter f and so you need to keep this in mind as you read this publication.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

Another edition printed in 1821 doesn't have this letter problem


The general division of Scotland into Highlands and Lowlands is in itself sufficiently indicative of the nature of the country, and of its aptness to the purposes of Natural History. The Lowlands, adjoining the English frontier, present an extensive and level range of the most fertile corn-fields, interspersed with moist woods, and occasional tracts of barren heath. In a surface thus diversified, and also containing a correspondent variety of soil, the botanist will meet with the greater number of the plants peculiar to the southern districts of Great Britain; while the mountains and rocks of the Highlands furnish a considerable number of others, for which search has in vain been made in any other part of the United Kingdom.

Such a country, though happily now forming an undivided portion of the empire, is of itself so naturally separate, and was so long regarded politically so, that there can scarcely be raised a question as to how far it deserves the distinction of having a volume dedicated expressly to the elucidation of its vegetable productions. In England, as well as upon the continent, the advantage of partial Floras has been generally recognised: they supply the natives of peculiar districts with the means of examining and ascertaining the plants of their vicinity at a comparatively small expense; they furnish an important contribution to vegetable geography; and they record a multitude of facts which would otherwise escape observation as well as contain in many instances more laboured and more minute descriptions than can be admitted into works of more extensive range.

Sibbald, as early as the year 1684, published his Scotia Illustrata, sive Prodromus Histories Naturalis Scotice, in two small folio volumes, the second of which was devoted exclusively to plants. This work was shortly afterwards attacked with severe invectives, which he met with a Vindicice contra Prodromomastiges. Whether it was owing to the rebuff which poor Sibbald experienced; or to the unsettled state of the country, little qualified to encourage scientific pursuits; or to any other cause; no further attempt appears to have been made to illustrate the vegetables of Scotland, till the appearance of the Flora Scolica of Lightfoot, in the latter half of the last century; a publication soon followed by two lists of plants lately discovered in Scotland by Mr. Dickson; the one communicated to the Linnean Society, the other printed in his own 2d fasciculus of Cryptogamous Vegetables. At a subsequent period, the late indefatigable George Don made many, and in certain instances very unexpected, additions to the Scotch Flora, the greater part of which he published through the medium of Smith’s Flora Britannica, or Sowerby’s English Botany; but some of them are to be found in his own fasciculi of Dried Plants. In times more immediately our own, Mr. Hopkirk of Glasgow, the founder of our Botanic Garden, has made a more important contribution to the Natural History of Scotland, by the publication of his Flora Glottiana; but still, with the exception of Lightfoot’s work, none has yet appeared professing to be a complete Flora of the country north of the Tweed. It will be observed that, in making this remark, I speak only of a Flora exclusively devoted to Scotland; it would be an invidious, and it would also be a needless, task, to provoke a discussion of the merits or demerits of those among my cotemporaries whose publications embrace the plants contained in the whole extent of the British Isles. With these I enter into no competition; nor have I a single observation to offer that may deteriorate from the merits of Lightfoot. His work contains a great mass of curious and valuable matter, selected with judgement when it is a compilation, and admirable where it is original. But it has long been out of print; and it maybe added, without any diminution of his fame, that during the last fifty years Botanical science has made such advances that a new and a different work is now required. To supply, therefore, this desideratum is the object of the present publication. The want of a similar work was felt by myself severely during the last course of my Lectures, and I have reason to believe that it has been equally complained of in the other Universities of Scotland. Of my own qualifications for the task it would by no means become me to speak: I, most assuredly, cannot lay claim to the advantages arising from a long residence in the country; but, on the other hand, 1 am not altogether a stranger tc it. Two successive tours, undertaken for the purpose of the cultivation of this branch of Natural History, the one in company with Mr. Borrer, the other with Mr. Turner, and both of them extending over by far the greatest part of the country, have rendered me, in some measure, acquainted with its vegetable productions. For a much more extensive and intimate acquaintance with them, I am proud to acknowledge myself indebted to the communications of my friends, who are residents in various parts of the kingdom: the information they have supplied me with is invariably accompanied with their names; but in a peculiar manner I feel myself bound to acknowledge the exertions made by my friend R. H. Greville, Esq. who devoted a very large portion of his time to the study of the minuter Fungi, with a success to which that portion of the work will bear ample testimony. Still much remains to be done in that extensive tribe, as well as among the Confervae, nor could the Botanists of Scotland render a more acceptable service to their Flora than by searching for new individuals of these families: and I can assure them that their labours will be rewarded by .numerous interesting discoveries.

The work is divided into Two Parts: the First comprising all the plants of Scotland, arranged according to the Linnean system, with the exception of the last class Cryptogamia. It contains generic and specific characters, with further descriptions and observations, where considered necessary, and occasional remarks on the uses of the plants. The synonyms are curtailed as much as possible, a single reference being considered sufficient where such can be made to a good figure, or to some work which shall have described the plant as a native of Scotland. The Second Part is devoted to the Natural Arrangement and here I may claim the merit of being the first who has made such an attempt with the indigenous plants. This section begins with the Crvptogamia, which in the Linnean system immediately follows the 23d class, or the last included in the first part of the work, and which may thus be said to occupy its right place, whichever method may be followed by the student. In the Crvptogamous or Acotyledonous plants, observations are frequently added to the synonyms and habitats; but in the other two classes which correspond with the 23 Linnean classes, treated of in the foregoing part of the Flora, it has been desirable to exclude all remarks and particular stations, and refer for these to the First Part. In all this, my aim has uniformly been to avoid the inconvenience and the expense of a large book. Could the whole have been comprised in a still smaller compass, it would have been my wish that it should have been so; but to have acquired brevity at the expense of clearness would have been no benefit to those who may use this work, and would have been an obvious failure in my own object.

Glasgow, 10th April, 1821.

In collecting the characters given of a large proportion of the natural orders; indeed, of all, with the exception of the Acotyledones, it is with much pleasure that I acknowledge the able and willing assistance that has been rendered me by my friend J. Lindley, Esq. That part must be considered as a joint production, and we alike claim the merit, or are responsible for the defects, which it may be found to contain. Of any tiring original, however, as to matter, little can be attributed to ourselves; the difficulty has been to select with care from materials which lie scattered in the various productions and memoirs of Linnaeus, Jussieu, Decandolle, Mirbel, Richard, and lastly, though among the very first in point of value, those of our learned countryman, Mr. Brown. But it must be observed, that although the name of some author is in most instances added to the characters of the orders, we nevertheless have used our discretion in altering those characters so as to make them suit our purpose. For by generally omitting such distinctions as only apply to extra European genera, we flatter ourselves that the subject has become considerably simplified, without any disadvantage to the student. In those eases where no name is cited we must be considered as wholly responsible.

Flora Scotica
By William Jackson Hooker, LL.D.

Return to our Nature page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus