Pyrola rotundifolia subsp. rotundifolia

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaPyrolaceaePyrolaPyrola rotundifolia subsp. rotundifolia


A rhizomatous, mycorrhizal, evergreen perennial herb. In England it usually grows in damp, calcareous sites including fens, disused chalk-pits and dune-slacks. In Scotland it inhabits open Pinus sylvestris woodland, river banks and gullies in open moorland, and montane cliff ledges. 0?760 m (Breadalbanes, Mid Perth).



World Distribution

Eurosiberian Boreo-temperate element.

Atlas Change Index: -0.08

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

NOTE: The account below is for the sub-species. Closely related species and sub-species may have separate accounts listed elsewhere in the Online New Atlas

Pyrola rotundifolia L. subsp. rotundifolia

Round-leaved wintergreen

Status: scarce


This species occupies diverse habitats, which are, however, usually calcareous and damp. In England it is primarily a plant of scrubby fens, e.g. former turf ponds in the Norfolk Broads, seasonally damp areas in disused chalk pits, and in coastal dune slacks. In these sites it grows in luxuriant mossy communities, often dominated by Calliergon cuspidatum and Drepanocladus spp. Usually it is found under willows, with which it may share a mycorrhizal partner. In Scotland it is recorded from open pine woodland, the banks of burns and in gullies on open moorland, and damp montane cliff ledges, It ascends to 680 metres on Guala Mhor, and there are unlocalised records from c. 760 metres in the Breadalbanes. 

It is an evergreen rhizomatous perennial, flowering from July to September. It is homogamous, pollinated by various insects or self-pollinating. Its seeds are very small, capable of long range wind-borne dispersal, and reliant on a mycobiont for seedling growth and establishment.

It is declining to near extinction in the Norfolk Broads through cessation of turf cutting and reed mowing. It has been lost from at least one disused chalk pit through rubbish tipping. Its ability to colonise such habitats argues for efficient wind-borne seed dispersal, and records from atypical habitats may thus represent chance colonisation where the plant rarely persists. It has been lost from some Scottish moorland sites because of intensive afforestation. It has perhaps been under-recorded as it is vegetatively similar to the other Pyrola species.

The P. rotundifolia complex has a circumboreal distribution. P. rotundifolia subsp. rotundifolia occurs in Europe from Scandinavia to the mountains of northern Spain, northern Italy, Bulgaria and the Crimea. It is widespread in Asia east to 120 °E.

An interesting parallel can be drawn with Liparis loeselii, a past associate in many Norfolk sites. Both have declining eastern nominate races and slowly increasing west coast dune-slack variants.


F. J. Rumsey

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.