This annual weed is mostly found on well-drained soils in arable fields, but it also occurs near the sea on sandy heaths, in disturbed dunes and on waste ground. Lowland, but with a casual record at 420 m near Ballater (S. Aberdeen).
A. arvensis was mapped as `all records` in the 1962 Atlas, and analysis of the database reveals that most of the losses have occurred since 1950. The main cause has been agricultural intensification, including the increased use of herbicides.
As an archaeophyte A. arvensis has a Eurosiberian Temperate distribution; it is widely naturalised outside this range.