This monocarpic perennial is found on roadside verges and railway banks, in old quarries and gravel-pits, in hedge banks, rough ground, and locally on coastal shingle (its only `natural` habitat). Outside its core area it is usually a casual of waste ground. Seed remains viable for many years and new populations can appear after soil disturbance. Lowland.
This species was first recorded in Britain in 1670. Since the 1962 Atlas it has been recorded in many additional 10-km squares, perhaps because of more systematic recording. Losses have been reported from its core areas in East Anglia, but other populations of this spectacular species are safeguarded by admirers.
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 51
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
Atlas Change Index: 0.94
Scarce Atlas Account
Verbascum pulverulentum Villars
The only natural habitat for this species in East Anglia is the coastal shingle bank on the eastern shores of the Wash. However, it is also found in carstone and gravel pits, on roadside verges and railway banks and on waste ground. It may have been spread to some of these localities with gravel. Outside its main area of regular distribution, plants occur as casuals, but rarely persist long unless they find a really suitable habitat. One place where they have done this is by a railway line in Norwich where a fine colony persists.
V. pulverulentum is usually described as a biennial, but it really acts as a monocarpic perennial, taking from two to four years to build up a sufficient rosette for successful flowering, Seeds germinate freely within weeks of falling from the plant and quickly make flat rosettes which remain evergreen during the winter. Plants which have their main stem damaged, and this is a not infrequent occurrence, throw up many new shoots from the leaf axils and will flower and fruit.
In north-west Norfolk V. pulverulentum has become reduced in number. It was formerly found on many roadsides where the plants were often cared for by local roadmen, but they do not survive well with modern mechanical cutting. Field headlands also supported many plants but again these no longer survive. Their seed, however, seems long-lived as the site of a roadside pipeline was covered in rosettes the following spring in a site where they had not been seen for some years. At present they are safe in the Snettisham Country Park and are to be found in the area wherever there is suitable bare ground. They are distinctive enough for several non-botanical people to take an interest in them: one fine colony lies behind a garage, whose owner is very proud of them, so they are in no danger.
V. pulverulentum is a native of south-western Europe, not occurring further north than the Netherlands, nor further east than the Rhineland. It is just possible that it is not completely hardy in severe winters and this may help to explain the fluctuations in its appearance away from the coastal fringe.
For a detailed account of the distribution of this species, with lists of associated species, see Parker (1985).
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.