Included here is a zone that extends from the northwest and northern parts of the Iberian Peninsula (including the Pyrenees) north to include Great Britain and Ireland and on to the western shores of Norway as far north as the islands of Hitra and Froga. On the European mainland the Armorican Massif, the Aquitanian and Parisian Basins, the Central Massif, and most of the German lowlands are included.

Atlantic European Heath

Typically dominated by Calluna vulgaris (heather) or two or three other ericaceous species, heathland is very characteristic of this BioProvince. Gorse, particularly Ulex europaeus, is often a common associate, but in the west this is often joined or replaced by the endemic Ulex gallii (western gorse) (Fabaceae) while in more southern heaths, in southern England and northwestern France, the endemic Ulex micranthus becomes the more characteristic species. The vegetation is best developed in the more western, oceanic zones, where local endemic ericoids such as Daboecia catabrica (St Dabeoc’s heath), Erica mackaiana (Mackay’s heath and E. vagans (Cornish heath) can be found. In more eastern situations such as the sandy heaths of Norfolk and Suffolk (in England) the rare endemic Scleranthus perennis ssp. perennis (perennial knawl) (Caryophyllaceae) may be encounterd. The coastal cliffs of these western zones are often characterised by the presence of climax maritime heath community dominated by Calluna vulgaris and the endemic Scilla verna (spring squill) (Liliaceae). In the northwest and western uplands the ericoid Vaccinium myrtillus becomes a more conspicuous component of the heathlands, and it is within these heaths that the so-called ‘Northern Atlantic mixed hepatic mats’ can be found. This distinct community dominated by Atlantic liverworts is more or less confined to Britain and Ireland, and often includes up to 13 large leafy liverworts. Typical species include Anastrepta orcadensis, Anastrophyllum donianum, A. joergensenii, Bazzania pearsonii, Jamesoniella carringtonii, Mastigophora woodsii, Pleurozia purpurea, Scapania nimbosa, S. ornithopodioides and the endemic taxa Herbertus aduncus subsp. hutchinsiae and Plagiochila carringtonii. Other northern Atlantic heaths are co-dominated by Calluna vulgaris and Juniperus communis subsp. nana. These occur, for example, on the slopes of Beinn Eighe in Scotland, and it is here beneath the dwarf shrubs that the large yellow-orange cushions of the rare endemic, Atlantic liverwort Herbertus borealis occurs. However, apart from in the more exposed coastal and upland situations, most of the heaths in this BioProvince are maintained by human controlled activities such as tree clearing, grazing or burning.

Atlantic European Bogs

Typical bog species are Erica tetralix, Eriophorum angustifolium, Molinia caerulea, the insectivorous plant Drosera rotundifolium, and the widespread endemic Narthecium ossifragum bog asphodel (Liliaceae). Other endemics of bogs are rarely as widespread - the endemic bog moss Sphagnum skyense, for example, is confined to the Isle of Skye on the northwest coast of Scotland. Characteristic sedges and rushes of fens include Cladium mariscus, Carex flacca, Carex nigra, Schoenus nigricans, Juncus articulatus and Juncus subnodulosus. They also include a variety of distinctive herbaceous species like Caltha palustris, Epipactis palustris, Dactylorhiza incarnata, Filipendula ulmaria, Lathyrus palustris, Lychnis flos-cuculi, Lysimachia vulgaris, Lythrum salicaria, Peucedanum palustre and Thalictrum flavum. Another type of mire is the so-called rush pasture typically dominated by Juncus effuses or Juncus acutiflorus. An interesting endemic possibly encountered in rush pasture is the stange whorled caraway Carum verticillatum (Apiaceae), although it can also be found in Molinia mire


Polunin, O. & Walters, M. 1985. A guide to the vegetation of Britain and Europe. Oxford University Press.

Ratcliffe, D. A. 1968. An ecological account of the Atlantic bryophytes in the British Isles. New Phytologist, 67: 365-439.