This endangered plant was first discovered in Great Britain in 1947 (1). It is pale green to grey in colour and is covered in fairly long, downy hairs. The small leaves grow in pairs that are positioned oppositely on the stem. The flowers are small and white; the specific name brachypetalum derives from the Greek brakhys, meaning short and petalum which means petal (2).
This winter annual germinates in October/ November and flowers in April and May. The flowers self-pollinate, and seed is set after May (1). It seems that this species has particularly poor dispersal abilities, as plants appear repeatedly in the same place as in previous years (1). The seeds require open ground in which to germinate and grow; this plant cannot compete with dense grass or vegetation (4).
Inhabits open habitats on old calcareous grassland, as well as railway banks and cuttings (1). The soils are often shallow and suffer from droughts in the summer, which keeps competing vegetation in check (4). In Bedfordshire the plant typically grows on anthills on two railway banks that face to the west (1). In Europe it occurs on walls, rocky limestone outcrops and ledges (4).
Grey mouse-ear is one of the species targeted by Plantlife's 'Back From the Brink' campaign. Controlled burning, used as a conservation management tool at the Bedfordshire site has had promising results (1).
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