Gnaphalium sylvaticum

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaAsteraceaeGnaphaliumGnaphalium sylvaticum


A short-lived perennial herb of open communities on dry, acidic, often sandy or gravelly soils. Habitats include heaths and heathy pastures, sand-pits, dunes, tracks and, especially, open woodland and forestry rides in areas of former heathland. 0-850 m (Breadalbanes, Mid Perth).



World Distribution

Eurosiberian Boreo-temperate element; also in N. America.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 6

Reaction (Ellenberg): 4

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 3


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 14.2

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1112

Life form information

Height (cm): 45

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Distribution information

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 1014

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 159

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -2.65

Weighted Changed Factor: -17

Weighted Change Factor Confidence (90%)


Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Gnaphalium sylvaticum L.

Heath cudweed

Status: not scarce



This calcifuge is found on moorland and forestry tracks in the north and in dry, open woods, heaths and sandy field edges elsewhere. It often grows in open patches on the edges of grazed rides in woodland. Typical associates include Agrostis capillaris, Anthoxanthum odoratum, Betula pubescens, Cerastium fontanum subsp. holosteoides, Galium saxatile, Pteridium aquilinum, Rumex acetosella and Veronica officinalis. This is essentially a lowland species, but it occurs up to 950 metres at Knockchoilum.

It is a short-lived perennial, with small flowers, which are little visited by insects and probably wind-pollinated. It reproduces by seed. Populations can vary greatly in numbers from year to year.

The results of the BSBI Monitoring Scheme suggested that this species had declined, and this is supported by the distribution map. A more detailed study is required to establish the reasons for this apparent decline. The species may be under-recorded in some areas, especially as it is often found in small populations. 

This is an amphi-atlantic species, found in Europe north to northern Norway and in western and central Asia and also in eastern North America. It is recorded as an introduction in New Zealand.



L. Farrell

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 (278b)
Curtis TGF, McGough HN
1988.  The Irish Red Data Book. 1. Vascular Plants.
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Meusel H, Jäger EJ
1992.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 3. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.