An annual, rarely perennial, rootless twining herb, parasitic on the stems of a wide variety of small shrubs and herbs (most frequently Calluna vulgaris, Thymus polytrichus, Ulex gallii and U. minor) on heathland, chalk downland and fixed dune grasslands. It is also casual on field crops and in arable field-borders at the northern and western extent of its range. Lowland.
The loss of lowland heath, ploughing of chalk downlands, and an increase in scrub have caused a decline in this species since 1930. Whilst it is still locally abundant, the map suggests a continuing substantial decline.
Eurosiberian Southern-temperate element; widely naturalised outside its native range.