A perennial herb of roadsides, hedge banks, woodland edges, pastures, field-borders, river banks and grassy waste places, preferring well-drained soils in unshaded or lightly shaded situations. It is tolerant of moderate levels of grazing or mowing, and seed is persistent in the soil. Predominantly lowland, but reaching 305 m at Scarth Nick (N.W. Yorks.), with an exceptional record at 845 m (Great Dun Fell, Westmorland).
M. moschata is native in S. England, but is probably introduced in N. Britain and Ireland. The distribution is stable, although it may be increasingly introduced with wild-flower seed mixtures and as garden escapes.
European Temperate element; widely naturalised outside its native range.