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Plant passports


Definition of plant

Plant trader's obligation to register

Wood and wood products



Some plants and plant produce are prohibited from entering the UK from outside the EU while others must meet certain requirements and be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate.

Further official information is available from the Plant Health Control pages on GOV UK

Importers are required to check if a plant or plant product requires phytosanitary certification to be allowed entry into the EU. An importer must register with Defra before importing any controlled plants or plant products. These certificates confirm that the goods have been inspected in their country of origin and meet EU standards on the absence of pests and diseases.

Plant passports

Plant health checks in the European Union are focused on the place of production. There are no border checks for plants and plant products travelling between EU member states, although spot checks may take place anywhere in the trade chain. A limited range of material which host the most serious ‘quarantine’ pests and diseases requires a plant passport to facilitate its movement. Where required, a passport is needed both for movements within and between member states, and additional requirements apply for movements into and within EU Protected Zones.

Plant passports may only be issued by growers who are registered and authorised for the purpose. Registration is free with no time limit. Authorisation will be granted annually on the basis of an official inspection of the plants during the growing season and a check on record keeping. Separate charges apply for the inspection of material which requires a phytosanitary certificate when imported from non-EU countries.


EU plant health legislation is contained in:

* Council Directive 2000/29/EC on protective measures against the introduction into the EU of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the EU1 (the Plant Health Directive);

* Council Directives 69/464/EEC on the control of Potato Wart Disease, 93/85/EEC on the control of Potato Ring Rot, 98/57/EC on the control of Potato Brown Rot and 2007/33/EC on the control of Potato Cyst Nematodes (the Control Directives).

In addition to EU legislation, the legislation is contained:

* for Great Britain in the Plant Health Act 1967, with separate regulations for each of England, Scotland and Wales (the Plant Health (England) Order 2015 (SI 2015 No. 610), the Plant Health (Scotland) Order 2005 (as amended) and the Wales Plant Health (Wales) Order 2006 (as amended);

* for Northern Ireland in the Plant Health Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 and the Plant Health Order (Northern Ireland) 2006 (as amended)

The relevant Plant Health Orders in the UK implement the EU legislation.

Definitions of ‘plant’ etc.

The detailed definitions of ‘plant’ are contained in the legislation. In summary:

* ‘plant’ means a living plant (including a fungus or shrub) or a living part of a plant (including a living part of a fungus or shrub), at any stage of growth, but excluding forest trees or forest shrubs; and

* living parts of a plant include: fruit, seed; vegetables, other than those preserved by deep freezing; tubers, corms, bulbs or rhizomes; cut flowers; branches with or without foliage; a plant or shrub that has been cut and which retains any foliage; leaves or foliage; a plant or shrub in tissue culture; live pollen; bud wood; cuttings; and scions

Water fern, water primrose and other plants banned from sale (E)

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Prohibition on Sale etc. of Invasive Non-native Plants) (England) Order 2014, SI 2014/538 prohibits the sale of seven, highly invasive, non-native, aquatic plants is banned in England.

From 6 April 2014, it is an offence to sell, offer or expose for sale or advertise for sale: fern, water (Azolla filiculoides); parrot’s feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum); • pennywort, floating (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides); primrose, floating water, (Ludwigia peploides); primrose, water, (Ludwigia grandiflora); primrose, water, (Ludwigia uruguayensis); stonecrop, Australian Swamp, otherwise known as New Zealand pygmyweed, (Crassula helmsii).

Plant trader’s obligation to register

No plant trader may engage in any activity to which the relevant Plant Health Orders (PHO) apply at any premises unless the plant trader is registered in respect of the activity at those premises. There is an exception from registration in respect of any activity to which the PHO applies if the plant trader is a producer and all of the relevant material which the plant trader produces and sells is intended for final use by persons on the local market who are not involved in plant production in the course of a trade or business. [PHO England re. 26 and similar provisions in other PHOs]

‘Plant trader’ means an importer of plant, plant product, soil or growing medium (relevant material), a producer of relevant material, a person in charge of premises used for the storage, aggregation or dispatch of consignments of relevant material; or a person who in the course of a trade or business divides up or combines consignments of relevant material.

Wood, wood products or bark: import from non-EU countries


In order to import certain wood, wood products or bark: import from non-EU countries, there are requirements to register for trading with the Forestry Commission (NI: Forestry Service), what documents you need, including certificate of clearance (form PHF28), and plant health inspection fees you have to pay.


England, Scotland and Wales


See: Source: GOV.UK: Import wood, wood products or bark from non-EU countries

Northern Ireland

See: Import and export of wood and bark



Criminal enforcement

Breach of the requirements of the PHO is a criminal offence punishable on summary conviction by a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale. However the offence of disclosing official information given by HMRC Commissioners to the Secretary of State for the purposes of the PHO without consent is punishable on conviction on indictment by imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or by a fine or both. There is provision for Directors’ criminal liability

What’s new on this topic [see What’s new page or archive for full item]:

24/01/2020: Plant passports: updated guidance following new plant health regulations

Under the new Plant Health Regulations 2016 (SI 2031) (PHR), implemented from 14 December 2019, the scope of plant passporting will be greater than before.

[Page updated: 02/03/2020]


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