Pimpernels & Allies

Yellow Pimpernel Water-violet Bog Pimpernel Scarlet Pimpernel

What are they?

This page covers a small assemblage of plants that are low-growing annuals or perennials and includes a mix of common and familar species and some less common and more local species. They are members of the primrose family (Primulaceae) with mostly five-petalled, star-like flowers. A recent review of the primrose family by taxonomists resulted in a number of these plants all being brought together in the genus Lysimachia, together with the yellow loosestrifes, so you will find different scientific names for them in older flower books. Water-violet and Chickweed-wintergreen are related but rather different in overall appearance, but are placed here for convenience.

Where are they found?

This is a surprisingly varied group of plants when it comes to distribution, with a number of species being adapted to certain habitats; thus, habitat can be a useful indicator of species. There are plants here that are found in disturbed arable land, acid bogs, fens, woodland and coastal marshes.

Identification

Flower colour will narrow your choice in the first instance, together with a note of the habitat. Most species will then be readily identifiable on a combination of flower colour and leaf shape, but note that Blue and Scarlet Pimpernels can require very close study of the petals with a good hand lens.



Scarlet Pimpernel      Lysimachia arvensis

Native. Widespread and common in a wide range of open and disturbed soil types, from gardens and arable fields to coastal dunes and shingle. Flowers mostly June to August and occasionally at other times in mild conditions, typically closing in cloudy weather. A very variable species but native plants have red flowers. Pink, violet or blue flowers occur in introduced plants and may occasionally be found but do not seem to persist for long. Blue-flowered plants (forma azurea) differ from Blue Pimpernel in having broader petals that clearly overlap each other and which have a good number of three-celled marginal hairs with globular tips. Leaves are broad towards the base of the plant, becoming narrower towards the tips of the stems.

Scarlet Pimpernel Scarlet Pimpernel Scarlet Pimpernel
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Scarlet Pimpernel Scarlet Pimpernel Scarlet Pimpernel
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Blue Pimpernel      Lysimachia foemina

An ancient introduction as an arable weed. Of uncertain status in East Anglia due to confusion with blue forms of Scarlet Pimpernel but certainly rare. Flowers mostly June to August, typically closing in cloudy weather. Differs from Scarlet Pimpernel in having narrower petals that barely overlap each other and which have a very few, four-celled marginal hairs with much less prominent, globular tips. Leaves are relatively narrow throughout the plant. For a long time, this species was considered to be a subspecies of Scarlet Pimpernel (as either ssp. caerulea or ssp. foemina) but a study of the molecular genetics of the genus revealed that they are not each others closest relatives.

Blue Pimpernel Blue Pimpernel Blue Pimpernel
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Yellow Pimpernel      Lysimachia nemorum

Native. Widespread in bare, open spots in woodland on damp ground, typically where the ground is kept clear by winter flooding. Flowers May to September. A low, trailing plant with star-shaped flowers that open flat and are carried on long, very slender stalks. Leaves clearly longer than broad and with pointed tips.

Yellow Pimpernel Yellow Pimpernel Yellow Pimpernel Yellow Pimpernel
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Creeping-Jenny      Lysimachia nummularia

Native in damp grassland and wet woodland but also occurs as an escape from cultivation in churchyards and a variety of disturbed habitats such as roadside verges and track sides. Flowers June to August. A low, trailing plant with flowers that are more cup-shaped and carried on stouter stalks than those of Yellow Pimpernel. Leaves more or less rounded, only slightly longer than broad.

Creeping-Jenny Creeping-Jenny Creeping-Jenny Creeping-Jenny
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Bog Pimpernel      Lysimachia tenella

Native. Widespread but uncommon generally as it favours acidic or sandy bogs, which are scarce in East Anglia. Flowers June to August. A tiny, creeping plant with neatly striped petals. Leaves less than 1cm in length.

Bog Pimpernel Bog Pimpernel Bog Pimpernel Bog Pimpernel
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Sea-milkwort      Lysimachia maritima

Native. Common in coastal habitats on sandy soil at the upper edge of saltmarshes, on shingle and sandy beaches and along tidal creek margins. Flowers June to August. A low, slightly succulent plant that forms tight, creeping mats in open sites, becoming more elongate amongst taller vegetation. The leaves and petals are covered in shallow puncture marks.

Sea-milkwort Sea-milkwort Sea-milkwort Sea-milkwort
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European Brookweed      Samolus valerandi

Native. Widespread but small and easily overlooked in wet fens and margins of wetlands, most frequently where temporary openings are created by disturbance. Flowers June to August. An upright plant with tiny flowers that are just 3-4mm across.

European Brookweed European Brookweed European Brookweed European Brookweed
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European Brookweed European Brookweed
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Water-violet      Hottonia palustris

Native. Widespread in ponds, ditches and fens but much less common than formerly as it requires good quality, clear water. Flowers May to June. Grows submerged in water, with the flower spikes emerging above the surface. Leaves may be exposed on surface mud during summer water draw-downs. Can form extensive colonies in suitable conditions.

Water-violet Water-violet Water-violet
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Water-violet Water-violet Water-violet
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Chickweed-wintergreen      Lysimachia europaea

Native in the UK and once recorded in North-east Suffolk but not seen in our region since around 1975. Typically a plant of boreal birch-pine forest on acid soils. Flowers June to July. A small plant with each slender stalk bearing a whorl of five or six leaves and topped with a strangely asymmetrical flower with 5-9 sepals and 5-9 (typically 7) petals and stamens. Could be confused with the true chickweeds but for its whorl of leaves and sepal/petal number.

Chickweed-wintergreen Chickweed-wintergreen
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