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  • Primula scotica at Yesnaby, Orkney

Flora & Fauna

Flora and fauna = plants and wildlife, and Orkney is rich in both.

A combination of our pollution-free air and diverse natural habitats account for around 500 native plants in Orkney. And that's not to forget another 200 that have been introduced to the islands. Orkney is, without any doubt, a flower-lovers' paradise.

The islands are home to one of Britain's rarest and most treasured flowers - the tiny Primula scotica or Scottish primrose. This little purple gem is found only in Orkney, Sutherland and Caithness and for many visitors the thrill of discovering this flower is the reason they visit our islands.

Orkney also boasts Britain's most northerly natural woodland at Berriedale Wood on the isle of Hoy, while on the island's nature reserve maritime heath and Arctic alpines flourish.

A wonderful place to spot wildlife, the islands are home to some very rare species of animals.

Among them is the Orkney vole (Microtus orcadensis) which is a unique sub species of the European vole, not found in mainland Britain. You can spot the voles’ runs on coastal grassland and might be lucky enough to see one. Short-eared owls and hen harriers hunt them for food.

Brown hare are common and can often be seen running across farmland. Mountain hare live in the hills and moors of Hoy and are brown in summer and white in winter... Rabbits also abound. One of Britain’s most elusive animals, the Eurasian otter, is alive and well in Orkney.

Orkney is also home to many species of insects including butterflies, moths and the dreaded midges and is one of the last habitats of the endangered great yellow bumblebee.

Important birds on our reserves include the hen harrier, short-eared owl, kestrel, rare corncrake, snipe, oystercatcher, curlew, red-throated diver, lapwing and many species of wild duck and geese.

Orkney has 36 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and 13 Special Protection Areas which are important areas for wildlife protected by Scottish Natural Heritage and 13 reserves managed by the RSPB. Wildlife projects are also managed by many other organisations in Orkney including the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, Orkney Field Club and Orkney Islands Council.