This herb is usually biennial, though it is sometimes a short-lived monocarpic perennial. It is mainly a plant of chalk grassland, but in Cambridgeshire is also found on chalky roadside banks and on ledges in an abandoned chalk quarry. Lowland.
The national distribution of S. libanotis is stable, and all populations lie within SSSIs. However, colonies in Cambridgeshire are small and vulnerable, and one has declined significantly in recent years, presumably because of poor grassland management.
Eurasian Temperate element, with a continental distribution in W. Europe.
Light (Ellenberg): 7
Moisture (Ellenberg): 4
Reaction (Ellenberg): 8
Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 3
Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0
January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.7
July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.4
Annual Precipitation (mm): 645
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 4
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
RDB Species Accounts
Seseli libanotis (L.) Koch (Apiaceae)
Status in Britain: VULNERABLE.
Status in Europe: Not threatened.
In Britain, S. libanotis is restricted to a very few localities in southern and eastern England, where it is mainly a plant of chalk grassland. It most often occurs in a sward containing Briza media, Bromopsis erecta and Festuca ovina, together with a wide variety of common calcicolous herbs such as Asperula cynanchica, Campanula glomerata, Cirsium acaule, Daucus carota, Linum catharticum, Pimpinella saxifraga, Plantago media and Sanguisorba minor. Several uncommon species, including Hypochaeris maculata, Phyteuma orbiculare, Pulsatilla vulgaris and Tephroseris integrifolia ssp. integrifolia occur with it at some its sites. In Cambridgeshire, S. libanotis also grows on chalky roadside banks, and the ledges of abandoned chalk quarries.
This plant is usually biennial, though is sometimes a short-lived perennial. It flowers in late summer, and is generally in full flower in mid-August. Seed-set and germination are presumed to be good, at least in those populations which are maintaining their numbers.
It occurs at six sites in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Sussex, and formerly grew at one other in Hertfordshire. All extant populations lie within SSSIs or NNRs, and thus have a degree of protection. There are two large populations near Beachy Head, East Sussex, each of which holds more than 3,000 plants. It is possible S. libanotis is still extant at a third site nearby (the edge of a golf-course), though only a single plant was recorded in 1986 (Everett 1988). The other large British population is at Knocking Hoe, Bedfordshire, where up to 12,000 plants have been recorded (Crompton 1974-1986). Both populations in Cambridgeshire are small. On the Gog Magog hills, it appears to be in decline, perhaps because of the lack of suitable grassland management. Hundreds of plants were recorded there in 1986, but only 70 in 1988 and twelve in 1993, though the latter surveys might have been partial. Only 23 plants were counted at the other Cambridgeshire site, at Cherry Hinton, in 1991.
In most populations, the number of flowering stems varies from year to year according to the intensity of rabbit-grazing. The largest populations seem to be more or less stable at the present time, or are, perhaps, slightly increasing. This encouraging picture suggests that current management is suitable, comprising sheep- and cattle-grazing early in the year, together with occasional 'topping' of the sward after seed-set to prevent it becoming too rank.
S. libanotis occurs widely in Europe, from Spain northwards to Britain, the Benelux countries and Fennoscandia, and eastwards to Poland, Russia and Bulgaria. Its also occurs in North Africa and in south-west Asia. Elevated plateaux and montane meadows are its usual habitats in continental Europe. A number of closely-related species occur in eastern Europe and Asia. S. libanotis has also been recorded from the eastern United States of America, though is adventive there.
P. A. Harmes
PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
Atlas text references
Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols,
, Königstein, (1986)
Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 2. 2 vols,
, Jena, (1978)
Umbellifers of the British Isles. Botanical Society of the British Isles Handbook no. 2,
, London, (1980)
British Red Data Books. 1. Vascular plants, edn 3,
, Peterborough, (1999)