An annual or biennial herb of open or disturbed ground, especially cultivated fields. Other habitats include woodland edges, open grassland, hedges, scrub, roadsides, walls and quarries. 0-610 m (Nenthead, Cumberland), and exceptionally at 845 m on Great Dun Fell (Westmorland).
Despite changes in agricultural practice, the distribution of M. arvensis has remained stable since 1900, due in part to its flexible life history and seed longevity. The larger-flowered var. sylvestris is often mistaken for M. sylvatica, but such errors are unlikely to have affected the map.
As an archaeophyte M. arvensis has a Eurosiberian Boreo-temperate distribution; it is widely naturalised outside this range.
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.