A perennial herb of grassy, often slightly base-enriched habitats on banks and the edges of fields, particularly amongst stones, boulders or bushes. Usually between 200 and 300 m, but down to sea level in Sutherland, and reaching 455 m on the Wast Water screes (Cumberland).
This species is adversely affected by overgrazing and undergrazing, both of which have contributed to its decline, though losses have also resulted from grassland improvement and land reclamation. Britain has a significant proportion of the world population of this species.
Suboceanic Temperate element.
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 214
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 15
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
Atlas Change Index: -0.34
Scarce Atlas Account
Vicia orobus DC.
Status: not scarce
A characteristic species of well-drained old species rich grassland in fertile, somewhat base enriched soil. It is intolerant of grazing and of competition from scrub. It occurs especially on banks and among boulders and thorny bushes, which give some protection from grazing stock, and on grassy sides of roads and tracks where there is no grazing but an occasional cut prevents the development of scrub. A favourite habitat is the stony edges of small enclosed fields of unimproved grassland from which sheep are excluded in summer to allow a hay crop to grow. It has a wide range of associates including Alchemilla glabra, Carex pallescens, Coeloglossum viride, Euphrasia arctica subsp. borealis, Genista anglica, Pseudorchis albida, Rhinanthus minor, Serratula tinctoria, Stachys officinalis, Succisa pratensis and Viola lutea. It is primarily an upland species, usually found between 200 metres and 300 metres, reaching 430 metres in Afton Glen, but descending to sea-level north of Lochinver.
A long-lived perennial which germinates readily from seed.
Although more widespread in its core areas than previously thought, it is intolerant of both grazing and competition from scrub, and thus affected both by too much and too little management. It has suffered from grassland improvement in some areas.
It is confined to western Europe, from North Spain to Denmark and south-west Norway, but on the European mainland it is a plant of shrub and forest edges. It is closely allied to V. cassubica, which replaces it from central France eastwards.
D. A. Pearman & P. M. Benoit
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)
Population genetics and demographic ecology of some scarce and declining vascular plants of Welsh lowland grassland and related habitats. Science Report No. 93,
, Bangor, (1994)
Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols,
, Jena, (1965)
Scarce plants in Britain,
, Peterborough, (1994)