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Fumaria purpurea


Purple Ramping-fumitory, Fumaria purpurea Pugsley, was described by Herbert Pugsley in 1902 (Pugsley 1902; 1912) and has no synonyms. It is believed to have arisen as an allopolyploid hybrid of F. muralis and F. officinalis (Lidén 1986).

Chromosome No.: 2n = c. 80 (Stace 2010).

Fumaria purpurea

Photography: A.J.Lockton



It is a difficult species to identify and, as a consequence, it has been under-recorded in the past. Moreover, not everybody’s records are accepted (see for example, Perring & Walters (1962), where the only records mapped are Pugsley’s, or those in adjacent squares). Some of the key features to look for are the distinctive colouration of the flower, the number of flowers in a raceme, the reflexed pedicels and the large sepals. The Plant Crib (Rich & Jermy 1998) gives more details, but all records need to be backed up by a good specimen and confirmed by an expert (the best herbarium for this taxon is the National Museum of Wales, in Cardiff - contact Tim Rich if you would like to send a specimen).


The Maps Scheme shows many more dots than the Atlas (Preston, Pearman & Dines 2002) with numerous new records post-2000. This is largely due to efforts by Tim Rich at the National Museum of Wales, and surveys commissioned by Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage (the latter organised by Heather McHaffie at RBGE). The new maps show F. purpurea to be reasonably frequent in a wide band running from Cornwall to Orkney - a very unusual distribution pattern for a British plant. Records of it far outside this range need confirmation. There are a few outliers, such as the site at Lake on the Isle of Wight. It is endemic to the British Isles, having cropped up a few times in the Channel Isles (Stewart, Pearman & Preston 1994), but not elsewhere in Europe. In Ireland it appears to be frequent along the east coast, although not all records seem to be fully vouched.

BSBI Hectad Map 

Click on the map to view full-size on the BSBI Maps Scheme website.


Pearman & Preston (op. cit.) describe it as a ‘scrambling herb which grows amongst bushes, on hedge banks, in cultivated fields and waste ground and occasionally on earthy sea-cliffs... in the Isles of Scilly it is found as a weed of bulb-fields.’ A very similar description is given by P.J. Wilson in the New Atlas. More recent work for the BAP (Lockton 2003) shows that it is mostly an arable weed in Scotland and a hedgerow and waste ground plant in England. In Wales it is purely a casual on waste ground and in gardens. Characteristic NVC communities may be W24 Rubus fruticosus underscrub and OV13 Stellaria media - Capsella bursa-pastoris arable weed community (ibid.). The bulb field reference is a bit of a red herring, as it is very rare in the Scilly Isles (Murphy 2009). In Berwickshire it tends to occur in fields of root vegetables (Michael Braithwaite, pers. comm.), and is therefore dependent on the farming practices. In Orkney it also occurs amongst root vegetables, and the RSPB owns many of its sites there.

  • Origin: native to Britain and Ireland. Endemic to the British Isles.
  • Rarity: Nationally Scarce in Britain (Stewart, Pearman & Preston 1994) and similarly uncommon in Ireland. Threat: it is given a positive Change Index +0.25 in the New Atlas and may well be increasing in parts of its range.
  • Conservation: a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Species.
Further Work 

It should be looked for anywhere within its former range. Good quality photographs of the flowers, backed up by well-pressed herbarium specimens, is the best way to record it. It seems an inappropriate species for the Biodiversity Action Plan, as it is a casual weed of anthropogenic habitats. However, it is clearly of some interest owing to its endemicity, and further studies into its ecology could prove interesting. One unanswered question about this and other species of fumitory is how long the seeds can remain viable, as they often crop up in sites after seemingly long absences.

  • Lidén, M. 1986. Synopsis of Fumarioidae (Papaveraceae) with a monograph of the tribe Fumarieae. Opera Botanica 88: 1-33.
  • Lockton, A.J. 2003. Fumaria purpurea in the British Isles. Report to English Nature by Whild Associates, Shrewsbury. (Available here for downloading, with permission of Natural England; pdf 4.85Mb.)
  • Murphy, R.J. 2009. Fumitories of Britain and Ireland. Botanical Society of the British Isles, London.
  • Pugsley, H.W. 1902. The British Capreolate Fumitories. Journal of Botany 40:129-136 & 173-181.
  • Pugsley, H.W. 1912. The genus Fumaria in Britain. Journal of Botany, 50 (supplement) pp. 1-76.
  • Rich, T.C.G. & Jermy, A.C. 1998. Plant Crib 1998. Botanical Society of the British Isles, London.
Lockton, A.J. (date accessed). Species account: Fumaria purpurea. Botanical Society of the British isles,