Bugle (Ajuga reptans)

Also known as: lightning, thunder
GenusAjuga (1)
SizeHeight: 10 – 30 cm (2)
Leaf length: 4 – 7 cm (2)
Flower diameter: 10 – 18 mm (2)

Common and widespread: not threatened (3).

Bugle is a common herb that often grows in large clumps (4). The flowers are deep purplish blue, rarely pink or white (2), and are arranged on tapering flower stalks. The dark leaves have an unusual colouration, with a purplish-brown or violet sheen on a dark green ground colour (4). An alternative name for this plant, ‘thunder and lightning’ is thought to refer to the contrast between the shiny highlights and deep background colour of the leaves (5). The common name ‘bugle’ does not refer to the musical instrument, but is thought to derive from ‘bugula’, s name used by apothecaries (5), which may in turn be a corruption of the generic Latin name ‘Ajuga' (6).

This plant is widespread throughout Britain, up to altitudes of 760 meters (3). Elsewhere it is found throughout much of Europe, the Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan), south west Asia, Algeria and Tunisia (2).

Found in damp broadleaved woodlands, typically in shaded places, and in damp meadows and pastures (2).

Bugle is a perennial herb that can spread by seed or, more typically, by means of creeping stems known as ‘stolons’ or ‘runners’ (3). It flowers from late April to early July (6). The flowers are pollinated by bees, although self-fertilisation is also possible (2).

Bugle was, in the past, a well-known medicinal herb. It was used mainly to treat wounds, and was once widely planted in gardens to provide a ready supply (5).

This species is not threatened.

Conservation action is not required for this very common species.

For more on British native plants and for details of how to get involved in plant conservation visit the website of Plantlife, the wild plant charity:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September 2003): http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
  2. Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G., and Moore, D.M. (1987) Flora of the British Isles 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  3. Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A. and Dines, T.D. (2002) New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.
  5. Grigson, G. (1996) The Englishman’s Flora. Helicon Publishing, Ltd., Oxford.
  6. Botanical.com (December 2003): http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/buglec82.html