Phyteuma orbiculare (Round-headed Rampion)


Summary Information


A perennial herb of species-rich chalk grassland, open scrub, earthworks and verges. It is tolerant of grazing, and seems to prefer grazed areas, but also grows in neighbouring ungrazed grassland. Propagation is mostly by seed but it also spreads by stoloniferous growth. Lowland.



World Distribution

European Boreo-temperate element; at low altitudes in W. Europe and in mountains of C. Europe.


Photos Information


Habitats Information

Broad Habitats

Calcareous grassland (includes lowland and montane types)

Light (Ellenberg): 7 Information

Moisture (Ellenberg): 4 Information

Reaction (Ellenberg): 8 Information

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 3 Information

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0 Information

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.9 Information

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.3 Information

Annual Precipitation (mm): 806 Information

Life Form

Life Form Information

Height (cm): 50

Perennation - primary


Perennation - secondary

Life Form - primary


Life Form - secondary



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Clonality - secondary


Distribution Information

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 55

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -0.16

Conservation Status

Conservation Status Information

Plantatt Conservation Status

Other Accounts

Other Accounts Information

Scarce Atlas Account

Phyteuma orbiculare L. 

Round-headed rampion

Status: scarce


A perennial species of ancient calcareous grassland, confined in Great Britain to lowland chalk. It occurs in Bromopsis erecta, Festuca ovina and F. rubra grasslands, and is associated with such species as Anacamptis pyramidalis, Asperula cynanchica, Hippocrepis comosa, Lotus corniculatus and sometimes rarer and more exacting calcicoles. As with most perennials adapted to chalk habitats, it can tolerate grazing, and under these conditions produces short-stemmed, leafy, open rosettes of basal leaves. Where it grows in the shade of Brachypodium pinnatum and Bromopsis erecta in ungrazed grassland, the basal leaves are reduced in number and have long petioles and narrower blades.

This is a perennial species. Some vegetative spread occurs by runners but reproduction appears to be mostly by seed, which is copiously produced.

The distribution seems to be fairly stable at present, but it no longer occurs in Kent, where it was recorded until c. 1940. It will tolerate fairly tall grass and some small degree of fertiliser enrichment, but cannot survive in dense scrub or with heavy fertiliser applications. The map does not make clear the extraordinary abundance of this species in the South Downs of Sussex and extreme E. Hants; elsewhere (in Wiltshire and the North Downs) it is much more local and scattered.

P. orbiculare is widespread in south-central Europe from Belgium southwards, but P. tenerum sensu stricto has an oceanic distribution (very like that of Thesium humifusum and Gentianella amarella) that is unusual among chalk grassland plants. 

The British plant has been known as P. tenerum and the plants of north-west France (e.g. Fontainebleau) seem identical to ours; those further afield in central Europe and the Alps do look quite different with their large bract subtending the inflorescence.


F. Rose & D. E. Green


References Information

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 (258a)
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.