A perennial herb of species-rich chalk and limestone grassland where the sward is kept short by grazing, mowing, exposure or disturbance, and on anthills. It also grows on limestone spoil-heaps. 0-375 m (near Pitlochry, E. Perth).
Old records of G. pumilum are unreliable as the species was previously confused with G. sterneri, so changes in its distribution are difficult to assess. However, confirmed specimens exist from many sites where this species now appears to be absent, the loss of chalk grassland and reduced grazing probably accounting for any decline. Plants at Cheddar (N. Somerset) formerly referred to G. fleurotii are now included within G. pumilum.
European Temperate element.
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Atlas Change Index: -1.32
Scarce Atlas Account
Galium pumilum Murray
This is a perennial bedstraw of herb-rich chalk grassland. G. pumilum thrives at sites where the turf is grazed, mown or kept short and thin by exposure, and the open texture gives adequate light and lowers competition. Bromopsis erecta, Festuca ovina and Helictotrichon pubescens are usually the characteristic grass species present, with plants such as Anacamptis pyramidalis, Asperula cynanchica, Cirsium acaule, Gymnadenia conopsea, Helianthemum nummularium, Hippocrepis comosa, Polygala calcarea and the scarce species Aceras anthropophorum. There is an interesting connection with Euphorbia cyparissias, formerly present with G. pumilum at five Kent sites (Rose & Gehu 1960), in Berkshire and in Sussex. They are still found together at a Dover site near where this continental spurge was first recognised as a native in 1876.
Populations seem to remain as small isolated patches persisting in exact locations. This implies that vegetative spread is not vigorous and seedling establishment is rare. However, hundreds of young plants were found in very short turf at Colley Hill in 1992 and these had presumably originated from seed.
Historical records are confusing, as the specific status of this group of bedstraws has been much argued. G. pumilum was formerly lumped with the northern limestone species G. sterneri and the doubtfully distinct Cheddar Gorge species G. fleurotii as ‘G. sylvestre Pollich’, though plants of the southern chalk were distinguished as G. sylvestre var. nitidulum by the 1880s. There was also considerable discussion about whether it was an alien or not, "introduced with grass seed" being argued against "may be a native" (Druce 1900, 1926), and at this time the presence of Euphorbia cyparissias suggested that it was a garden escape. However it is almost certain that all records from ancient chalk grassland in south-east England are for G. pumilum, while limestone plants from the north and west are variously distinct. Because of these past uncertainties and its rather inconspicuous habit the plant may be under-recorded, but destruction of chalk grassland, and cessation of grazing on much of what remains, has undoubtedly caused considerable losses.
It is found throughout western and central Europe, north to Denmark and east to the Baltic. The exact distribution is not quite clear because of the existence of many hybrids and chromosomal differences between the many forms of this variable species.