Sibthorpia europaea

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaScrophulariaceaeSibthorpiaSibthorpia europaea


A procumbent perennial herb of acidic soils in damp, shady places, including woodland, banks by small streams and ditches (often creeping over a carpet of mosses), on wet heathland, on thin soil over granite walls or other masonry, on shaded paths and lawns, and occasionally in other damp habitats. 0-515 m (Connor Hill, S. Kerry).



World Distribution

Oceanic Temperate element.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 5

Moisture (Ellenberg): 7

Reaction (Ellenberg): 5

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 5

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 5.3

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 15.5

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1189

Height (cm): 5

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Extensively creeping and rooting at nodes

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 107

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 9

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 8

Atlas Change Index: -0.14

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Sibthorpia europaea L.

Cornish moneywort

Status: scarce


S. europaea grows in humid microclimates in sheltered lowland sites. It is most frequently found above small streams and ditches, growing over a thin layer of soil on granite walls or other masonry or on the earthy banks of rivulets and ditches. Most sites are shaded by walls, banks or trees. S. europaea usually creeps over a carpet of mosses with vascular plants present only as scattered individuals. It is occasionally found on moist, flat, sometimes cattle-poached soils by streams; it also occurs in abundance in a moist lawn and on the wet rock of a disused railway cutting. It is restricted to acidic soils (pH 4.16.5). In Cornwall and Devon it is most frequent between 100 and 200 metres at the edge of granite massifs where there are numerous small streams. It reaches 300 metres on Carnedd Llwyd. 

S. europaea is an evergreen perennial which reproduces by vegetative spread and from seed. Plants are usually self pollinating and seed is set very freely in cultivation (Hedberg 1975), though not always in the wild. Colonies are reduced in size in prolonged summer droughts, but subsequently grow back from surviving fragments (Rilstone 1948). Frost damage also occurs in the wild during harsh winters, and plants cultivated outdoors in Cambridge are completely defoliated by winter cold.

This inconspicuous plant has not decreased markedly in range or abundance, although it may have declined locally where roadside streams have been piped. It has only recently been found in Monmouthshire (1990) and Dorset (1992) and may be overlooked at other sites on the fringe of its range.

It occurs in western Europe from the Azores, Spain and Portugal to south-western Ireland and Wales. It also occurs in Greece (Mt Pelion), Crete and in the mountains of tropical Africa.

Several British bryophytes and ferns with a mainly western distribution have, like S. europaea, outliers in the Weald. Its disjunct world distribution suggests that S. europaea was formerly more widespread, perhaps in Tertiary times. Western European populations arc quite uniform whereas those in Africa are variable (Hedberg 1955).


C. D. Preston

Atlas text references

Atlas (227b)
Curtis TGF, McGough HN
1988.  The Irish Red Data Book. 1. Vascular Plants.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.