Small-Flowered Catchfly (Silene gallica) - Species Action Plan

Ref 2/S17 Species Action Plan 17
Plan Author: Norfolk County Council
Plan Co-ordinator: Farmland Topic Group
Plan Leader Natural England
April 2007 Final

Action Plan Summary

Current Status

National Status

  • Small-flowered catchfly is a species of arable land, waste ground and sandy seashores. It is a winter annual, mainly germinating in autumn but also capable of doing so in spring. It is therefore found in both spring and winter crops.
  • This species was once widespread in the UK and has been recorded in 283 ten km squares as far north as central Scotland. However, it has undergone a very rapid decline and is now concentrated in southern and western England and Wales, and most of its remaining sites are in coastal areas. Its decline has been associated with agricultural changes, but has been compounded by its vulnerability to harsh winters (seedlings cannot tolerate temperatures of less than <10° C). The loss of repeated introductions from uncleaned European seed may have given the appearance of an even more catastrophic decline. Small-flowered catchfly is widespread in central and southern Europe. It is not threatened in Europe as a whole, but has virtually disappeared from northern Europe.
  • In Great Britain, small-flowered catchfly is classified as Nationally Scarce. It receives general protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Norfolk Status

  • The Norfolk distribution is very scattered, although this scarce annual does occur in 12 1-km squares in Norfolk, and is particularly abundant on a disused railway line at Gimingham. It has also been recorded from an active quarry site at Beetley, Roosting Hill, and from Felmingham railway cutting. Generally, the outlook for this species is fairly positive, as it does seem to persist even when management is unfavourable, suddenly reappearing when conditions are more favourable.

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Current factors causing loss or decline in Norfolk

  • Poorly competitive, and has been affected by increased levels of nitrogen applied to improve crop varieties. Also susceptible to herbicides.

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Current Action in Norfolk

  • The Norfolk Flora Group check records for this species.
  • Felmingham railway cutting is a Local Nature Reserve and County Wildlife Site.
  • Roadside Nature Reserve 61 at Long Lane, Strumpshaw was notified for this species.

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Action Plan Objectives and Targets


  • Maintain current range of natural populations within 87 10-km squares in the UK.
  • Achieve a two-fold increase in the area of habitat suitable for the natural colonisation of the species by 2010 in priority areas


  • Ensure that the population remains viable at all current sites.
  • Provide opportunities for the spread of small-flowered catchfly from extant sites.

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