Epilobium alsinifolium

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaOnagraceaeEpilobiumEpilobium alsinifolium


A montane perennial herb, spreading by stolons and occurring in or by mountain springs or streams, or on irrigated mountain ledges, often in moss carpets; sometimes temporarily established by streams at lower altitudes. It occurs on acidic and basic substrates, and tolerates eutrophic conditions. From 120 m on Eigg (N. Ebudes) to 1140 m on Bidean nam Bian (Main Argyll).



World Distribution

European Arctic-montane element; also in Greenland.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 9

Reaction (Ellenberg): 6

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 4


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 1

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 11.9

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1832

Life form information

Height (cm): 20

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Rhizome shortly creeping

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 218

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 1

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -0.41

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Epilobium alsinifolium Villars

Chickweed willowherb

Status: not scarce



This is a plant of hillside springs, usually occurring in closed communities with a high bryophyte cover. In the Lake District and northern Pennines these springs may be rather base-poor, associated species being Cardamine pratensis, Cerastium fontanum, Cochlearia pyrenaica, Montia fontana, Ranunculus omiophyllus, Saxifraga stellaris, Stellaria uliginosa, Dicranella palustris, Philonotis fontana, Pohlia spp. and Scapania undulata. Interesting associates locally are Cardamine amara (Corner 1990) and Myosotis stolonifera. Over more calcareous rock, as locally in the northern Pennines and particularly in central and north-west Scotland, the spring communities are more species-rich and characterised by Carex nigra, C. panicea, Festuca rubra, Saxifraga aizoides, Cratoneuron commutatum and C. filicinum. It may also occur, though rarely, in semi-open calcareous, stony flushes which are often found below the spring vegetation. Other habitats are on irrigated rock ledges and by mountain streamsides, especially in steep, shaded gullies, where the mass of willowherb stolons are usually rooted in bryophyte cushions. It occurs up to 1140 metres in Glen Coe and descends to 120 metres on Eigg and 150 metres in the Lune Gorge. 

This is a perennial herb which is probably self-pollinated. It spreads by stolons. Plants in the more open accessible sites suffer from grazing and this may have resulted in the disappearance of the species from some of its more peripheral montane localities.

Its world distribution extends through the mountains of northern and central Europe, with outlying stations in southern Spain and Greece and single localities in west Greenland and north-west Ireland.



R. W. M. Corner & G. Halliday

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 (147b)
Curtis TGF, McGough HN
1988.  The Irish Red Data Book. 1. Vascular Plants.
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Kytövuori I
1972.  The Alpinae group of the genus Epilobium in northernmost Fennoscandinavia. A morphological, taxonomical and ecological study. Annales Botanici Fennici. 9:163-203.
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.