An annual, rarely biennial, herb, almost exclusively found on arable land in autumn-sown cereals, but sometimes in other arable crops; also on waste and disturbed ground. It is perhaps most frequent on calcareous clays, but is found on a wide range of soils, including sands and gravels. Lowland.
Once frequent, this species had already lost nearly half its sites by 1930, and since then its accelerating decline has been one of the most dramatic shown by any arable weed. It is a victim of intensive crop management, being vulnerable to herbicides and unable to compete in dense crop swards.
As an archaeophyte T. arvensis has a Eurosiberian Southern-temperate distribution.
Light (Ellenberg): 8
Moisture (Ellenberg): 4
Reaction (Ellenberg): 8
Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 4
Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0
January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.7
July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.2
Annual Precipitation (mm): 707
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 389
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
Atlas Change Index: -2.56
Scarce Atlas Account
Torilis arvensis (Hudson) Link
A rare weed, most frequent on heavy calcareous clay soils, almost exclusively found in winter-sown cereal crops. It also occurs occasionally in other crops and on waste land in open, well-drained situations. It has poor powers of dispersal and tends not to colonise far from the location of parent plants. It is usually associated with other uncommon weeds such as Euphorbia platyphyllos, Lathyrus aphaca, Lithospermum arvense, Petroselinum segetum, Ranunculus arvensis and Valerianella dentata.
T. arvensis is an annual or rarely a biennial: most seeds germinate in autumn, some in spring. Germination is intermittent, and seed is thought to remain dormant in the soil for several years. Cool, damp summers are known to inhibit seed-set, whilst harsh winters eliminate autumn-germinated seedlings.
Once widespread on the chalk and limestone soils of southern Britain, its range and frequency have diminished considerably since the 1950s as it has proved to be vulnerable to herbicide treatments. It also competes poorly with heavily fertilised modern crop varieties.
It ranges throughout western, southern and central Europe and south-western Asia but is declining and is threatened in most countries of north-western Europe. The centre of distribution is probably southern and central Europe, and it is probably at the edge of its range in Britain.
The fruits of T. arvensis are covered with bristly hairs which have incurved tips. The hooked tips of bristles on the fruit would cause them to cling to the fur of passing animals, as well as to clothing. In the absence of livestock, dispersal tends to be restricted.
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
1990. Flora dels Països Catalans, II. Crucíferes-Amarantàcies.
1994. Scarce plants in Britain.
1980. Umbellifers of the British Isles. Botanical Society of the British Isles Handbook no. 2.