Ajuga chamaepitys

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaLamiaceaeAjugaAjuga chamaepitys


An annual or biennial herb of arable field margins and bare tracks on calcareous soils, and on open chalk downland. Its seeds are long-lived and this has led to its reappearance following disturbance at some sites. Lowland.



World Distribution

European Southern-temperate element.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 4

Reaction (Ellenberg): 8

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.8

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.5

Annual Precipitation (mm): 713

Life form information

Height (cm): 20

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 43

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -0.62

Distribution information

Plantatt Conservation Status


JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Ajuga chamaepitys (L.) Schreber


Status: scarce

WCA Schedule 8 species 


Typically this is a species of open chalk downland habitats in southern England, most often on arable field margins but occasionally in open grassland sites. Where it does occur as an arable weed, it is usually indicative of a site that has escaped the normal intensive farming regime, and it is often associated with other rare species such as Filago pyramidata or Teucrium botrys. This lowland species appears to favour the top end of a south-facing slope, where the soils are more freely draining and warmer, and where there is usually less competition from the crop itself. The plant benefits from the activity of rabbits in reducing the crop canopy and opening up areas by scraping. In chalk grassland it also colonises areas disturbed by rabbits or human activity. 

A. chamaepitys is an annual or biennial. Its main germination period is in the autumn (August/ September), with a further flush from January to February. It is vulnerable to cold, wet, prolonged winters which kill off autumn-germinated seedlings. This may help to explain its sporadic appearance in its regular sites. In cold years the seeds fail to ripen (Grubb 1976). The seed can remain dormant for some years.

This plant is at the northern limit of its range in Britain, and is restricted to south-east England by its requirements for warm calcareous soils. It has declined considerably under the impact of modern intensive farming regimes: it cannot compete effectively in enriched soils and is susceptible to herbicide treatments. In some areas it is now more frequent in disturbed areas, such as places where trees have been uprooted or pipelines laid, than on arable margins. This species has become so scarce in many of its sites that it is now listed on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). At some sites it is encouraged by a programme of regular ploughing or scraping of turf. The introduction of low intensity arable regimes (such as ‘conservation headlands’) on remaining sites would enhance its prospects of survival.

Found throughout Europe except for the far north, it has declined considerably in northern and western Europe. Its distribution extends eastwards into the Lebanon and Palestine, and southwards into North Africa.

A. chamaepitys has been known to persist at some sites for more than a century, and to recur in these sites after a period of time in which plants were not found, usually after a deep plough. 


A. Smith

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 (253b)
Meusel H, Jäger E, Rauschert S, Weinert E
1978.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 2. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.
Wigginton MJ
1999.  British Red Data Books. 1. Vascular plants, edn 3.