A biennial herb of bare ground within open grassland, arable field margins, and open fallow overlying chalk and limestone; occasionally recorded on spoil-tips and in disused quarries. Lowland.
T. botrys was cultivated in Britain by 1633 and first recorded in 1844 at Box Hill (Surrey), and has sometimes been considered to be native. It has declined since 1930 due to agricultural intensification, scrub encroachment and lack of grazing. However, it benefits from disturbance and at some sites thousands of plants have been recorded following cultivation or conservation management such as harrowing and turf cutting.
European Temperate element, but absent as a native from much of W. Europe.
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 12
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
Atlas Change Index: -0.42
RDB Species Accounts
Teucrium botrys L. (Lamiaceae)
Status in Britain: VULNERABLE. WCA Schedule 8.
Status in Europe: Not threatened.
T. botrys is a plant of bare or sparsely vegetated places on chalk and limestone. It has been recorded from a variety of habitats, including open grassland, arable field margins, chalk and limestone spoil tips, a disused chalk quarry, and open fallow. A very open community is essential, as it is intolerant of shade or competition. A wide range of associated species include Ajuga chamaepitys, Carex flacca, Cerastium pumilum, Chaenorrhinum minus, Euphorbia exigua, Galium parisiense, Gentianella amarella, Kickxia spuria, Leontodon hispidus, Pilosella officinarum, Thymus polytrichus and Vulpia unilateralis.
In Britain, it is predominantly a monocarpic biennial (occasionally an annual) which reproduces exclusively by seed. Seed germinates mainly in spring and autumn, but seedlings may appear at other times of year depending on the weather, and plants from a spring germination flower in the same year. It flowers from July to September and is pollinated by bees, though self-pollination is possible (Clapham, et al. 1987). Open, broken ground is essential for germination. Since the seeds are relatively heavy and tend to fall within a few centimetres of the parent plant, T. botrys is a poor coloniser.
At its peak, T. botrys was recorded from twelve hectads, but since 1930 many sites have been lost, and it is now extant in only six hectads, and at only six sites. It is present at Upper Halling in West Kent, the Chipstead valley and Box Hill in Surrey, Micheldever and Harewood Forest in Hampshire, and near Stroud in Gloucestershire. T. botrys has been extinct for more than 40 years at Uffcott Hill in Wiltshire, at Godmersham in Kent and at Selsdon in Surrey. Populations vary considerably from year to year, depending on the state of the habitat. In recent years, those in Gloucestershire, Hampshire and Surrey have numbered in the thousands in response to cultivation or other appropriate conservation management. Whilst some other populations are currently small, recovery can be rapid following soil disturbance.
In the absence of domestic livestock, habitat management has included local harrowing and cultivation, scrub cutting, and the cutting of turf (Winship 1994a). The main threat to the species is the cessation of such conservation management, and agricultural intensification, which has reduced the extent of one of the Hampshire populations. Urban development has encroached on to a Surrey site. However, five of the six populations are safeguarded within SSSIs, and two are managed by county Wildlife Trusts.
T. botrys is widespread in open habitats in southern, western and central Europe, extending northwards to Britain and eastwards to Poland and Romania. It is also recorded from Algeria.
H. R. Winship
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.