A shade-tolerant tuberous herb usually found on chalk and limestone soils in open deciduous woodland and scrub, but also recorded from grassland, chalk-pits, limestone pavement, disused railways, spoil heaps and, rarely, unstable coastal cliffs. In Ireland and Anglesey it is found only in open calcareous flushes and fens. 0-390 m (Helbeck Wood, Westmorland).
This species declined dramatically before 1930, especially in East Anglia. Since then the losses have continued, but at a reduced rate. Most losses are due to scrub encroachment, the closing of woodland canopies, woodland clearance and drainage of fens.
European Temperate element.