Recently, this annual of sandy calcareous or slightly acidic soils has been found on the margins of arable fields and on sandy banks, but it was formerly also known from tracks, fallow fields, gravel-pits and waste ground. Regular disturbance is needed to maintain sufficient open ground for germination. Lowland.
V. triphyllos was first recorded in Britain in 1670, and it has been long-established in Breckland. Its main decline took place before 1930, and since the 1962 Atlas it has been confined to very few sites. Conservation management is ensuring its survival at remaining sites.
As an archaeophyte V. triphyllos has a European Temperate distribution, with a continental distribution in W. Europe.
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 33
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
Atlas Change Index: -0.82
RDB Species Accounts
Veronica triphyllos L. (Scrophulariaceae)
Status in Britain: ENDANGERED. WCA Schedule 8.
Status in Europe: Not threatened.
This is the rarest of the annual Veronica species, and the earliest to flower. It grows on open calcareous or slightly acidic sandy soil (pH 6.4-8.0), usually at the margins of arable fields, or on soil blown from arable land (Watt 1971), but historically has also been recorded on sandy tracks and waste ground, in fallow fields and gravel pits. Its associates are mainly short-lived species including Arabidopsis thaliana, Arenaria serpyllifolia, Cerastium semidecandrum, Erophila verna, Lamium purpureum, Myosotis ramosissima, Saxifraga tridactylites, Stellaria pallida, Veronica persica and V. hederifolia.
The seedlings of this annual species usually appear in January, and the flowers in mid-March, though it may flower as early as February. When well-grown, the slender stems may attain 10 cm in height and sprawl over the ground, but are often very much shorter. Climatic conditions control the timing of seed ripening and shedding; this may occur in April or as late as June. After seed is shed, the plant quickly dies and disappears. Open ground is essential for germination, and V. triphyllos is absent where there is winter competition.
V. triphyllos has always had a very restricted distribution in Britain, but has declined drastically as agricultural and other development have taken their toll. It now occurs at only three sites in Breckland, one in Norfolk and two in Suffolk. Its sole Norfolk site is now included within a housing estate, in which turves were transplanted to a sandy bank in order to save some of the original population. In Suffolk, a tiny population still remains at the single native site: one plant was recorded there in 1978 and five in 1991. V. triphyllos was introduced to its other Suffolk site in 1967, a broad strip of cultivated ground at the edge of an arable field, which is maintained as a reserve principally for rare Veronica species. V. triphyllos is considered doubtfully native in Surrey, where it was once a weed of sandy fields (Lousley 1976), and persisted in a nursery at Byfleet probably until the early 1980s. It has also been recorded in several other counties from Cornwall to Yorkshire, generally as a non-persistent casual.
Sites have been lost to development and many populations destroyed by changes in agricultural practice, including the application of herbicides. Conservation management at the reserve site mainly comprises regular disturbance or shallow cultivation of the soil, with the aim of maintaining suitably open conditions for germination and growth. But these cultivations have not always been successful in the past, and germination and flowering have been erratic (Trist 1979). Numbers vary according to the cultivation regime, but in good years several hundred plants can occur.
In Europe it is widespread in dry grassland, cultivated ground and waste places from Sweden and Latvia southwards, but is rather rare in the Mediterranean region. It is also recorded in North Africa and western Asia.
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 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)
British Red Data Books. 1. Vascular plants, edn 3,
, Peterborough, (1999)