A long-lived perennial herb of damp, fertile, acid soils on road verges, streamsides and in coppiced woodland. Reproduction is by seed, which is long-lived, but recruitment at some sites is negligible. Lowland.
P. spicatum has been grown for centuries as a medicinal plant, and was first recorded in the wild in 1640. Plants in Sussex were first recorded in 1824, suggesting that although traditionally regarded as native, it might be an introduction there. It was formerly more widespread and more abundant within this stronghold. It cannot tolerate shade and has disappeared from many sites through a lack of coppicing.
European Temperate element.
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Light (Ellenberg): 5
Moisture (Ellenberg): 5
Reaction (Ellenberg): 6
Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 5
Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0
January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4.1
July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.4
Annual Precipitation (mm): 826
Height (cm): 80
Perennation - primary
Life Form - primary
Clonality - primary
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 8
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
Atlas Change Index: -0.73
Plantatt Conservation Status
RDB Species Accounts
Phyteuma spicatum L. (Campanulaceae)
Spiked rampion, Cyrnogyn Pigfain
Status in Britain: VULNERABLE. WCA Schedule 8.
Status in Europe: Not threatened. Endemic.
P. spicatum is a plant of damp fertile acid soils, its typical habitat being by streamsides in coppiced woodland. However, it has disappeared from many such sites, since they are no longer coppiced and have become overgrown. It is now mainly found on damp, summer-shaded roadside verges, with some populations in woodland rides and on stream banks in unworked woodland. It is usually found in good quality habitat, with many species characteristic of ancient woodland, including Anemone nemorosa, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, Lathyrus montanus, Lysimachia nemorum, Orchis mascula, Oxalis acetosella, Potentilla sterilis, Sanicula europaea, and in damper spots Carex laevigata, C. remota and Dryopteris carthusiana.
This species is a long-lived perennial with a large tap-root, bearing an erect stem which can exceed a metre in height though it is usually 50-80 cm tall. Flowering is normally in June and July, depending on the warmth of the season, and seed is set in July and August. At the present time, seedlings appear to be rare, and recruitment negligible at some sites. Seed can remain viable in the soil for at least five years, and probably much longer.
In Britain, established populations of P. spicatum have always been confined to a small area of East Sussex where, however, it was much more abundant in the past. During the nineteenth century it was reported as growing in hedgerows "scattered for miles" (Branwell 1872), but it is now confined to a few localities in two small areas of the county near Heathfield and Hailsham. The largest extant population occurs on a steep roadside verge (one of three such verges where P. spicatum occurs) near Hadlow Down, where 134 plants were counted in 1994, having decreased from 198 in 1980. The smaller populations also appear to be declining, and perhaps only 300-400 plants now survive in Britain.
P. spicatum declines and largely disappears in deep shade, but can reappear when the canopy is opened up. A lack of coppicing and woodland management is generally cited as the main reason for its decline in Sussex, and this assumption is supported by observations in similar woodland in northern France. An area in the Forêt d’Othe, near Sens, showed an enormous increase in P. spicatum after coppicing, and its rarity and restriction to edges in adjacent old coppice apartments (C.D.Pigott, pers. comm.). In Sussex it has disappeared from many of its former sites where the canopy has closed over, and most populations are now in woodland rides and on verges where there is sufficient light. It is possible, however, that small colonies are surviving in unworked woodland, and could be revived by opening up the canopy. Roadside verge and woodland ride populations are also threatened by inappropriate management: for example, flowering plants have been mown or cut before they have had chance to set seed, even on roadside verges designated as local nature reserves.
There remains the question of nativeness. P. spicatum has been long known as a medicinal plant. Indeed, the first reference is in Gerard's 'Herball' (1597) in which, under the name of Rapuntium maius, it is described as a garden plant. Arnold (1887) considered it might have originally been an escape from Warbleton or Michelham Priories. The distribution is so odd, that the evidence seems against its being a native plant, despite the similarity of the Sussex woodlands to those in northern France. Nonetheless, it has been in Sussex for a very long time, and should be protected.
P. spicatum is endemic in Europe, extending from Britain, southern Norway and the Baltic states southwards to northern Spain, Italy and Romania. It occurs in forest-edge habitats, meadows and mountain pastures up to 2,000 metres in altitude.
B. Wheeler, D. A. Pearman and M. J. Wigginton
Atlas text references
1986. Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
1992. Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 3. 2 vols.
1999. The history and distribution of Phyteuma spicatum L. (Campanulaceae) in Britain. Watsonia. 22:387-395.
1999. British Red Data Books. 1. Vascular plants, edn 3.