An annual or perennial occurring mainly on the ledges and fine calcareous debris of coastal chalk cliffs where it parasitises species of Asteraceae, especially Picris hieracioides. Lowland.
This species is probably decreasing. Populations are usually quite small and some have been lost as a result of cliff falls and erosion. The inland records mapped in the 1962 Atlas are now thought to be erroneous (Stace, 1997).
European Southern-temperate element.
Light (Ellenberg): 8
Moisture (Ellenberg): 4
Reaction (Ellenberg): 8
Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 5
Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0
January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4.5
July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.5
Annual Precipitation (mm): 753
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 6
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
RDB Species Accounts
Orobanche artemisiae-campestris Vaucher ex Gaudin (Orobanchaceae)
Orobanche loricata Rchb. pat., O. picridis F.W. Schultz ex Mert. & Koch [synonyms sensu Stace 1991]
Status in Britain: ENDANGERED. WCA Schedule 8.
Status in Europe: Not threatened.
O. artemisiae-campestris now appears to be confined to unstable coastal chalk cliffs in southern England.
In cliff-top grassland it occurs in species-rich turf with Filipendula vulgaris, Picris hieracioides and Sanguisorba minor, and typical associates in its cliff-face habitats include Anthyllis vulneraria, Galium verum, Onobrychis viciifolia and Ononis repens.
This species is normally an annual, and is in flower in late June and July. On exposed maritime cliffs the flowers quickly wither and plants appear to remain in peak flowering condition for only a few days. It parasitises species of Asteraceae, especially Picris hieracioides. Other apparent hosts include Leontodon hispidus and Pilosella officinarum, but in most cases verification of the host has not been possible. On occasions it has been seen at a considerable distance from its traditionally accepted hosts, and so other host species may be involved.
This species is currently extant in Kent and the Isle of Wight, but has not been confirmed recently in West Sussex. It was formerly thought to have had a wider range, having been recorded from Breconshire and Worcestershire eastwards to Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Suffolk. However, because of its similarity to the variable O. minor, most or all records away from the south coast are considered likely to be erroneous (e.g. Stace 1991), and are not mapped. Its present day sites currently hold very few plants, usually fewer than twenty. The colony at Freshwater, Isle of Wight was formerly much larger, the plant having been described there as "plentiful" in 1883 (Bevis, et al. 1978). Apparently few plants survive today, though erosion has made access and inspection of the colony very difficult. In 1986 about twenty spikes appeared in the chalk grassland on the cliff-top at Tennyson Down, but the population declined rapidly and no plants have been seen there in recent years. In East Kent there are two surviving populations in similar habitats to that on the Isle of Wight. One at Dover held up to twenty plants in 1994, scattered over a distance of 100 metres on more or less unstable cliffs and ledges. Further east at what is sometimes considered to be the classic British site, numbers are lower and plants can be atypical, perhaps because of hybridisation with O. minor. There are considerable stretches of unstable, inaccessible cliffs elsewhere on the south coast where occasional records have been made, and the plant may still be locally present in small numbers.
The main threat to its survival lies in the unstable nature of its cliff-face habitat. Its relative inaccessibility provides some protection, although at one locality there is some recreational pressure. In the past, collecting was a serious threat as evidenced by the number of specimens in British herbaria. In East Kent, construction work for the Channel Tunnel has been cause for concern, but so far appears to have had little effect on the population.
O. artemisiae-campestris is a member of a critical group of plants allied to O. minor. It is widely distributed throughout central and southern Europe, though there are different views on the taxonomic affinities of this and related species, especially O. picridis and O. fuliginosa. Kreutz (1995), following Gilli (1966), treats the British taxon as a separate species (O. picridis). He regards O. loricata as synonymous with O. artemisiae-campestris, a central and southern European taxon. This taxonomic uncertainty obscures the distributions of the species.
M. J. Y. Foley
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)
Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 2. 2 vols,
, Jena, (1978)
An account of Orobanche L. in Britain and Ireland,
, Watsonia, Volume 18, p.257-295, (1991)
British Red Data Books. 1. Vascular plants, edn 3,
, Peterborough, (1999)