Epilobium lanceolatum

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaOnagraceaeEpilobiumEpilobium lanceolatum


A perennial herb which grows in various dry habitats in S.W. England, including roadsides, walls, banks, quarries, streets and dunes. Elsewhere, it is more frequently a garden weed. 0-400 m (Dartmoor, S. Devon).



World Distribution

Submediterranean-Subatlantic element.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 5

Reaction (Ellenberg): 6

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 5

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4.4

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16

Annual Precipitation (mm): 937

Height (cm): 60

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 371

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 12

Atlas Change Index: 0.07

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Epilobium lanceolatum Sebast. and Mauri

Spear-leaved willowherb

Status: not scarce



E. lanceolatum grows in a wide range of disturbed sites where the vegetation cover is open and competition is low. It is found on sand dunes, open banks, walls and quarries and as a garden weed, typically in drier habitats than most Epilobium species. In Europe, it is typical of screen of siliceous rocks in a habitat mimicked in Britain by the loose granitic ballast and cinder along railway lines. A typical associate in central Europe and in the artificial British habitat is Senecio viscosus. Although primarily a lowland plant, E. lanceolatum reaches over 400 metres on Dartmoor. 

E. lanceolatum is a perennial, reproducing both by wind-borne seeds and vegetatively in late autumn by above-ground stolons that terminate in leaf-rosettes.

The trends in its distribution are difficult to establish, due to apparent confusion with other willowherbs. There is some suggestion of a decline in England but new records on the rail network and as a garden weed in Wales and the Midlands partly offset this trend. The numerous pre-1970 records from Devon were extracted from Ivimey-Cook (1984); there has been no recent survey of this species in the county.

E. lanceolatum is found in west and southern Europe (from Britain, France and Belgium to the Balkans) and around the Mediterranean including North Africa and the Near East, as far east as the Caucasus mountains.



J. O. Mountford

Atlas text references

Atlas (145b)
Meusel H, Jäger E, Rauschert S, Weinert E
1978.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 2. 2 vols.
et al (1994)
Walters SM
1979.  Epilobium lanceolatum Seb. & Mauri - a plant to look for in your garden. Watsonia. 12:399.