Flowering plants are the most dominant, and familiar, group of terrestrial plants in Ayrshire. They consist of 2 major groups- conifers that have seeds in a cone (Gymnosperms); and the others, which have the seeds in a fruit (Angiosperms).
The richly varied coast in Ayrshire hosts numerous habitats, each with a unique plant community. Coastal saltmarsh or merse hosts species such as Glasswort Salicornia europaea, Cord Grass Spartina alterniflora, Thrift Armeria maritima and grasses such as Red Fescue Festuca rubra. Sand dune areas accommodate typical species including Sea Rocket Cakile maritima, and Marram Grass Ammophila arenaria and Sea Holly Eryngium maritimum whilst rarer species include Lesser Twayblade Listera cordata and Coralroot Orchid Corallorhiza trifida.
The upland areas of Ayrshire have plant species that prefer a colder climate. Yellow Saxifrage Saxifraga aizoides and Starry Saxifrage Saxifraga stellaris can be found in upland areas in East Ayrshire and on Arran. Other species that can be seen in upland habitat include Crowberry Empetrum nigrum, Alpine Willowherb Epilobium anagallidifolium and Whorled caraway Carum verticillatum.
Woodland habitats can be rich and varied, supporting many associated plant and animal species. Although a large proportion of the regions wooded habitats are dominated by coniferous plantations, there are still many pockets of native woodland supporting characteristic flora. Native oak woodlands, such as those of the Ayr River Gorge at Failford, are amongst the richest in diversity, dominated by Sessile Oak Quercus petraea interspersed with Silver Birch Betula pendula, Downy Birch Betula pubescens and scattered Rowan Sorbus aucuparia. During the spring, the woodland floor can be covered in Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta. Plants such as Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, Wood-sorrel Oxalis acetosella and, in richer soil, Pignut Conopodium majus thrive. There are many areas of long-established broad-leaved woodland of planted origin which include other tree species such as Beech Fagus sylvatica and Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus. The forest floor may still provide spectacular displays of Wild Garlic Allium ursinum, Primrose Primula vulgaris and Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis in spring.
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