An annual of seasonally flooded, nutrient-rich soils in areas disturbed by machinery or animals, such as hollows on ploughed land, rutted tracks and gateways in pastures. Its seeds appear to be long-lived. Lowland.
It is difficult to assess trends in this inconspicuous and sporadic species, which was known in Britain by 1597. Many sites were lost before 1930, probably through the disuse of commons, re-surfacing of tracks and the drainage and filling of small ponds. It persists in areas such as coastal grazing marshes.
European Temperate element; also in N. America and Australasia and widely naturalised elsewhere.
Light (Ellenberg): 8
Moisture (Ellenberg): 7
Reaction (Ellenberg): 6
Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 5
Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0
January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.8
July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.3
Annual Precipitation (mm): 691
Height (cm): 8
Perennation - primary
Life Form - primary
Clonality - primary
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 339
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 2
Atlas Change Index: -0.66
Scarce Atlas Account
Myosurus minimus L.
Status: not scarce
This is an annual plant of fertile broken ground which may be seasonally inundated and subject to trampling and compaction. M. minimus is found within a variety of lowland habitats, including cultivated land on the margins of arable fields and gardens as well as in grasslands and on the rutted or poached soil of tracks and gateways. As an arable weed, M. minimus is widely distributed but its appearance is unpredictable and sporadic. It grows on extensively grazed grasslands both within enclosed farmland and on commons and village greens. Here it is found in places where cattle or horses congregate and maintain bare muddy ground. Within more intensively managed grasslands, such as traditionally run small dairy farms, M. minimus is found in gateways and on tracksides along which livestock may pass daily. Where large populations are found, short lived satellite populations may occur on minor cattle paths and around drinking places.
Reproduction is by seed which is freely set. The seed invariably becomes trampled in the mud where it may germinate in bare ground in subsequent seasons. The seed-laden mud also adheres to hooves, tractor tyres and boot treads whereby it may be distributed to new sites. The seed floats and may be transported by flood waters.
M. minimus has declined throughout its range. This decline is partially concealed by the sporadic appearance of small populations; when mapped together these suggest a larger and more stable national population than actually exists. The decline is due to intensive arable and grassland management and the abandonment of extensive grazing of agriculturally marginal lowland grasslands, including commons. Without continued unintensive grazing, the fertile bare ground required by M. minimus is colonised by vigorous grasses and herbs.
M. minimus is widespread in Europe, North Africa, western Asia and North America. In Europe it is rare in the Mediterranean region and absent from the far north (Jalas & Suominen 1989). It is also recorded as an introduction in South Africa and Australia.
As a relatively inconspicuous species, growing in what are generally perceived as aesthetically and botanically unrewarding habitats, M. minimus is likely to be under-recorded.
Atlas text references
1986. Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Jalas & Suominen (1989)
1965. Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols.
1994. Scarce plants in Britain.