A rhizomatous perennial herb which grows on fertile soils by streams and rivers, and in damp woodland, in both open and shaded places. Generally lowland.
Although S. umbrosa is treated as a native species it may be a relatively recent colonist. It was first recorded in Britain in 1840 (Salop) and in Ireland in 1895 (Co. Dublin). It was first recorded relatively recently in counties such as Berwickshire (1852), Norfolk (1904), Angus (1910) and Cumbria (1924), and it has a puzzlingly patchy distribution. It continues to increase, especially within its current strongholds.
Eurosiberian Temperate element, with a continental distribution in W. Europe.
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 196
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 14
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
Atlas Change Index: 0.72
Scarce Atlas Account
Scrophularia umbrosa Dumort.
Status: not scarce
This species usually grows at the sides of rivers and streams, but is also found in damp woodland. It grows in fertile soils, often in vegetation dominated by Phalaris arundinacea and with associates such as Butomus umbellatus, Caltha palustris, Iris pseudacorus, Oenanthe crocata, Schoenoplectus lacustris and Scirpus sylvaticus. There is some negative association with S. auriculata, which may replace it, at least in more open situations in the south where S. auriculata is common. S. umbrosa occurs in both open and shaded situations. At one locality it grows in cracks in sun-baked retaining walls near a river, though there is some water seepage through the soil. It is confined to the lowlands.
S. umbrosa is a perennial which spreads by a compact rhizome. It reproduces by seed, which probably germinates mainly in the spring and does not form a persistent seed bank. Individuals may be scattered amongst other species or form small stands.
S. umbrosa has increased markedly in abundance this century in several of the regions in which it is now frequent. It was, for example, first recorded as a rarity in Norfolk in 1904, in Berwickshire in 1852 and in Angus in 1910, in all of which it is now locally frequent. Despite its similarity with S. auriculata, former confusion between the two species does not seem to explain the apparent increase. S. umbrosa may even be a relatively recent coloniser of Britain, perhaps distributed by wildfowl, which could explain its scattered distribution outwith its main centres.
It is a continental species, occurring in central and eastern Europe, north to southern Scandinavia, and Asia as far east as Tibet.
M. E. Braithwaite
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
The Irish Red Data Book. 1. Vascular Plants,
, Dublin, (1988)
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)
Scarce plants in Britain,
, Peterborough, (1994)