A tufted perennial herb of well-drained neutral to calcareous soils. In the lowlands, it is predominantly a plant of woodland and other shady habitats, including hedgerows, railway banks and roadsides, and it has colonised chalk and limestone downland following scrub invasion. It can persist in areas of former woodland or scrub. Above c. 200 m, it can occur in more open situations including limestone grassland and pavements, cliffs and screes. 0-465 m (Highfolds Scar, Malham, Mid-W. Yorks.).
The distribution of B. sylvaticum is stable.
European Temperate element; also in C. and E. Asia and widely naturalised outside its native range.