Pyrola media

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaPyrolaceaePyrolaPyrola media


A rhizomatous, mycorrhizal, evergreen perennial herb of well-drained, mildly acidic to slightly basic soils in woods and on heaths. It is characteristic of Arctostaphylos-Calluna submontane heath derived from former woodland. 0-550 m (Coire Garbhlach, Easterness).



World Distribution

Eurosiberian Boreal-montane element.

© Pete Stroh

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 5

Moisture (Ellenberg): 4

Reaction (Ellenberg): 5

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 2.2

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 13

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1197

Height (cm): 10

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Rhizome shortly creeping

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 258

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 47

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -1.09

JNCC Designations


External Species Accounts

Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Pyrola media Sw.

Intermediate wintergreen

Status: scarce


P. media usually grows on mildly acidic to slightly basic, well-drained soils in woods (especially pinewoods) and heaths. In pinewoods, it grows in the mossy dwarf-shrub field layer amongst Vaccinium myrtillus and V. vitis-idaea, and in association with Goodyera repens, Gymnocarpium dryopteris, Listera cordata, Melampyrum pratense and Pyrola minor. It is also a member of a distinctive sub-montane dwarf shrub heath - usually derived from former woodland - with co-dominance of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi and Calluna vulgaris, but on slightly basic brown earths with an abundance of Genista anglica and herbs such as Anemone nemorosa, Lathyrus linifolius, Lotus corniculatus and Viola riviniana. Its altitudinal range is from near sea-level in Banff to 550 metres on Coire Garbhlach above Glen Feshie. 

Little seems to be known about the reproduction of this evergreen perennial herb, but it has evident powers of recovery after moorland fires, despite the appearance of widespread decline.

This is a mysterious plant. In the Atlas of the British flora (Perring & Walters 1962), a high proportion of mapped records were pre-1930, and although some new records have been made since 1970, they are mainly in the north-east of Scotland where most of the extant populations occur. Either there has been a substantial decline, even within the Highlands, or there was previous confusion of identity with P. minor. Unfavourable woodland management might have been a factor in its decline, and some colonies have been lost through afforestation, unless they can survive the thicket stage of growth. Many heathland sites are subject to burning, but the plant appears able to regenerate with the rest of the community. Heavy grazing which destroyed the dwarf shrub heath would also remove this species, and could have contributed to its decline.

Matthews (1955) classifies this species as continental-northern, and it occurs from arctic Scandinavia to the mountains of central Europe, the Caucasus and Asia Minor.


D. A. Ratcliffe

Atlas text references

Atlas (197a) Curtis TGF, McGough HN
1988.  The Irish Red Data Book. 1. Vascular Plants. Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols. McVean DN, Ratcliffe DA
1962.  Plant communities of the Scottish Highlands. Monographs of the Nature Conservancy No. 1. Meusel H, Jäger E, Rauschert S, Weinert E
1978.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 2. 2 vols. Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.