A winter-annual of grassy places, often on light, sandy and gravelly soils, particularly near the coast. It grows as a weed in lawns and frequently occurred as a casual in fields manured with wool shoddy. It is able to persist as small plants in mown lawns, and can grow as very robust plants in nutrient-rich habitats. Lowland.
There has been a marked increase in M. arabica since the 1962 Atlas, particularly in S. England and the Midlands. Recent county floras suggest it has become more common in inland areas, for reasons that are not clear. For example, it was very rare in Oxfordshire before 1930, but is now widespread.
Submediterranean-Subatlantic element; widely naturalised outside its native range.