A tufted evergreen perennial herb which grows on rocks and steep dry slopes of predominantly southerly aspect. It prefers mildly acidic to moderately basic soils and many stations are on the more basic volcanic rocks such as basalt and dolerite. From near sea level on undercliffs in Kirkcudbrightshire to 425 m at Kinloch Rannoch (Mid Perth); most populations are above 300 m.
The losses shown on the map took place before 1930 and there has been no significant change in the distribution of this species since the 1962 Atlas. It is widely cultivated and sometimes escapes.
Eurosiberian Temperate element, with a continental distribution in W. Europe.
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 28
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
Atlas Change Index: 0.01
RDB Species Accounts
Lychnis viscaria L. (Caryophyllaceae)
Sticky catchfly, Coirean Leantalach, Lluglys Gludiog
Status in Britain: VULNERABLE.
Status in Europe: Not threatened.
In Britain, L. viscaria is mainly found in open sites on dry south- to west-facing basic and intermediate igneous rocks, although it occasionally occurs on sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, as in Kirkcudbrightshire and Perthshire respectively. An interesting feature of the associated flora of L. viscaria is the proximity of species that do not normally grow together because of their preferences for either acid or basic soils. Various combinations of the following plants may occur depending on the locality: Calluna vulgaris, Cytisus scoparius, Erica cinerea, Helianthemum nummularium, Helictotrichon pratense, Origanum vulgare, Scabiosa columbaria, Teucrium scorodonia, Thymus polytrichus and Ulex europaeus. The combination of the inherent chemistry of the soil, the pH range within which most nutrients are in an available form, and small-scale variation in the soil probably account for the juxtaposition of calcicole and calcifuge plants. Other contributory factors include the relaxed competition in these open sites, and the differential rooting depth of plants, calcifuges such as Calluna vulgaris rooting nearer the more leached surface (Jarvis 1974).
This species is a tufted, winter-green perennial with upright flowering stems which are viscid beneath the nodes. Panicles of flowers are produced mainly from late May to July, with butterflies and bumble-bees the chief pollinators. L. viscaria can withstand drought well and recovers after severe wilting, but is very sensitive to shading by surrounding vegetation. Although L. viscaria is perennial, it does not have an effective vegetative propagation mechanism and relies on copious seed production and seedling recruitment for continued survival. Where populations are accessible to grazing animals flowering can be severely reduced with consequent loss of seed production.
There are at least nineteen extant sites for L. viscaria ranging from fewer than five clumps in at least two sites to several hundred in the western Ochil Hills. The plant has recently disappeared from two sites, in Selkirkshire and Fife, through scrub encroachment, and is threatened to varying degrees in at least a further four sites (Wright & Lusby 1993; 1994). Fire has severely reduced the population at its oldest known British locality in Holyrood Park. In Wales, an apparently stable population of several hundred plants occurs on south-facing ledges and in crevices in the dolerite cliffs of Stanner Rocks (Morgan 1989c; Woods 1993). At its other Welsh site, at Breidden, quarrying has much reduced the extent of its habitat and only about 70 plants remained in 1986 (Morgan 1989a), with perhaps fewer now. ‘Recovery’ programmes, including habitat management and translocations, have been carried out at some threatened sites in Scotland and Wales, including the long-known site on Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh. L. viscaria is not uncommon in cultivation.
L. viscaria extends north to beyond the Arctic circle to 70°N, south to the Alps and east to the Novosibirsk region of central Russia (Wilson, et al. 1995).
P. S. Lusby
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)
Jalas & Suominen (1986)
Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols,
, Jena, (1965)
British Red Data Books. 1. Vascular plants, edn 3,
, Peterborough, (1999)
Wright et al (1995)