Cut-leaved germander (Teucrium botrys)

GenusTeucrium (1)
SizeLength of flowers: 15 - 20 mm (2)
Length of leaves: 10 - 25 mm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable in Great Britain and fully protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (3).

Cut-leaved germander is a hairy plant that, as the common name suggests, has leaves that are cut into a number of oblong-shaped lobes (2). The flowers, which are arranged in clusters, are purple or deep pink in colour and can reach up to 2 cm in length (2).

This species declined in the UK after the 1930s, and is currently known from just six sites in the south of England (4), having disappeared from another nine (5). It is widespread in western, southern and central Europe, reaching east to Poland and Romania, and north to the UK, and also occurs in Algeria (4).

It is recorded from arable field margins, fallow fields, open grasslands, disused quarries and chalk spoil heaps, as well as a chalk river cliff with open scrub. It is especially characteristic of open, disturbed sites and usually occurs on fairly bare soil. It is very tolerant of drought but not shade. The soils are usually bare, calcareous mineral soils low in nutrients (individual plants may benefit from nutrients from rabbit latrines) and it will also thrive on open, nutrient-rich soils (3), (5).

Cut-leaved germander typically occurs as a biennial species, which flowers once, and then dies in the UK, but may occasionally occur as an annual(4) (3). In cultivation, and possibly sometimes in the wild, some plants may flower more than once, and be short-lived (to at least four years) perennials, which die back to a bud at ground level in the autumn (3).

The life-cycle is variable, and depends on the time of germination and yearly weather conditions. The seeds usually germinate in spring or autumn but seedlings may appear at other times of year depending on the weather, and bare ground is essential for this to happen (4) (3) (5). The flowers open from July to September (exceptionally November); they are either pollinated by bees, or self-fertilisation can take place. The seeds are heavy, and fall close to the parent plant, so the species is not a very good coloniser of new suitable habitats (4).

Cut-leaved germander does not seem able to survive in the face of competition with tall vegetation (3) (5). Agricultural intensification is a major threat (4), and if conservation management were to end, the species would be at great risk (4). At one site, urban development has started to affect the area (4).

Five out of the six known UK populations occur within Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and two sites are managed by local Wildlife Trusts; they therefore receive a degree of protection. Conservation management including 'harrowing' to create bare areas and to break up the soil; scrub clearance and turf cutting has been carried out, and the species has responded well (4).

For more on this species see the book: New Atlas of the Flora of Britain and Ireland, by Preston, C. D., Pearman, D. A., Dines, T. D. (2002). Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Visit the website of the Botanical Society of the British Isles at:

Information authenticated by Tim Rich of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales.

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (2001)
  2. Press, B. & Gibbons, B. (1993) Photographic field guide: Wild Flowers of Britain and Europe. New Holland (Publishers) Ltd., London.
  3. Winship, H. R. (1994) The conservation of cut-leaved germander Teucrium botrys Linnaeus. Eastleigh: Hampshire Wildlife Trust.
  4. Wigginton, M. J. (1999) British Red Data Books 1; Vascular Plants. 3rd Edition. JNCC, Peterborough.
  5. Rich, T. C. G. (1997) The management of semi-natural lowland grassland for selected rare and scarce vascular plants: a review. English Nature Research Reports no. 216. English Nature, Peterborough.