A climbing or scrambling perennial of hedges, wood-borders and clearings, scrub, rough ungrazed grassland on cliffs, wooded gorges and also on shingle, screes and railway bank. A genetically dwarf variant (var. condensata) occurs on shingle and coastal cliffs in N. & W. Britain and Ireland. 0-675 m (Breadalbanes, Mid Perth).
V. sylvatica is much better recorded than in the 1962 Atlas, but there have been losses across much of its range and many county floras report local declines. It needs light in its woodland edge habitat so a decline in coppicing might be affecting its abundance.
Eurosiberian Boreo-temperate element.