An annual of well-drained soils usually kept open through drought or disturbance. Formerly, it was most frequent as a weed of arable land on calcareous or acidic sandy soils, but most remaining sites are in chalk quarries or on chalk spoil. Populations vary greatly in size annually. Lowland.
This species has suffered a major decline which is most probably attributable to changing agricultural practices, such as autumn cereal growing and the increasing use of herbicides.
As an archaeophyte F. pyramidata has a Submediterranean-Subatlantic distribution. It reaches its northern limit in England, and is declining in the eastern part of its European range.
Light (Ellenberg): 9
Moisture (Ellenberg): 4
Reaction (Ellenberg): 7
Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 3
Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0
January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.8
July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.3
Annual Precipitation (mm): 687
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 132
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 2
Atlas Change Index: -1.14
RDB Species Accounts
Filago pyramidata L. (Asteraceae)
Filago spathulata auct., non C. Presl
Broad-leaved cudweed, Edafeddog Llydanddail
Status in Britain: ENDANGERED. WCA Schedule 8.
Status in Europe: Not threatened.
This is a species of arable land and other habitats with a long history of disturbance. Of the eight extant sites, three are on arable land, three in chalk quarries and two on chalk spoil adjacent to railway lines. All remaining populations are on well-drained calcareous or sandy soils, and it grows best where competition is minimal and the habitat is kept open by cultivation or drought. At some sites, the wide range of associates often includes other rare and scarce species: for example, at one arable site in Kent, Ajuga chamaepitys, Althaea hirsuta, Anagallis arvensis ssp. foemina, Papaver hybridum and Silene noctiflora are present. On sandy soils, F. pyramidata may grow with F. minima and F. vulgaris, and notable associates in quarry sites include Cerastium pumilum and Iberis amara.
F. pyramidata usually behaves as a winter annual, germinating in autumn and flowering from mid- to late summer. Seedlings can, however, germinate in spring, and in arable land F. pyramidata can occur in both spring- and autumn-sown crops (Wilson 1990). Abundant seed is produced, which can form a persistent seed-bank. The disappearance of F. pyramidata from a site may not therefore mark a permanent loss, and the return of suitable conditions could lead to its reappearance at former sites.
It has been recorded from more than 100 hectads, although from only 21 between 1930 and 1960, and eight between 1975 and 1986 (Smith 1986). Between 1993 and 1996 it was seen at only eight sites (in eight hectads), two each in Surrey, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire, and one in West Sussex and Kent (Rich 1995c; 1996c). Records at some former sites are thought to represent misidentifications of Filago vulgaris (Rich 1995b). As with F. lutescens, populations may vary greatly in size according to climatic and habitat conditions. Since 1993, two sites have consistently held between 10,000 and 60,000 plants, but other sites have much smaller populations, some of which, in a particular year, holding up to 2,000 plants, whilst others may hold just a few individuals, or none at all.
The main reason for the decline of F. pyramidata is likely to have been arable intensification, including autumn cultivation and the increased application of herbicides and artificial fertilisers. Infill of quarries, growth of tall herbage or scrub, and the cessation of cultivation may also have led to the loss of populations. Five of the remaining sites are SSSIs; at three of these, management appears to be suitable, one is the subject of current restoration work, whilst another is threatened by the development of a golf course.
F. pyramidata is mainly a plant of southern Europe, ranging from Iberia and France, the Mediterranean islands, Italy and Greece to North Africa, Turkey and western Asia. Its range extends northwards to the Low Countries and England, but it is rare in the northerly parts of its range (Rich 1995b).
P. J. Wilson
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.