Purple ramping-fumitory (Fumaria purpurea)

Purple ramping-fumitory in flower
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Purple ramping-fumitory fact file

Purple ramping-fumitory description


Purple ramping-fumitory is a climbing plant which can also be found sprawling across the ground. It bears up to 24 purple flowers, 12 mm in length, in clusters on the end of its stems. The leaves form three or five lobes and are arranged alternately up the stems.

The fumitory family's English and scientific names derive from the Latin fumus terrae, meaning 'earth smoke'. This is believed to stem from an early botanist who described the appearance of fumitory 'as if the ground were all of a smoak'.

Height: up to 100 cm

Purple ramping-fumitory biology

This plant is an annual, and flowers between July and October. The fruits are produced on downward curved pedicels. As the purple ramping-fumitory resembles others in the family, it has been somewhat overlooked by botanists, and not a lot is known about the plant.


Purple ramping-fumitory range

This species is endemic to Britain, Ireland and the Channel Islands. It is widely distributed but the main concentrations are in western and northern Britain. Its present strongholds are Cornwall and Lancashire.

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.

Purple ramping-fumitory habitat

Purple ramping-fumitory is a plant of hedge-banks, arable land, waste ground and occasionally sea cliffs. It favours sites subject to recent disturbance, or drought affected areas.


Purple ramping-fumitory status

Classified as Lower Risk: Nationally Scarce.


Purple ramping-fumitory threats

This species was not discovered until 1902 and, as it has not been fully studied, it is little understood why it is declining. However, as with so many of our arable weeds, the likely cause is changes in farming practices.


Purple ramping-fumitory conservation

Purple ramping-fumitory is listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plans (UKBAPs), and included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme (SRP). The priority action for this species is to establish the true status of the plant, and to protect it at its present sites. Once this is achieved, work can begin on increasing the range and populations.

With any endangered plant, it is important to ensure that seeds are collected and stored as an insurance against possible extinction, and to assist in any re-introduction programme. The Millennium Seed Bank, maintained by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, at Wakehurst Place, has stored seeds from many UK plants.

Purple ramping-fumitory is one of many arable plants that could benefit from agricultural/environment schemes. Efforts are underway to encourage farmers and landowners to adopt these schemes in order to preserve these scarce plants.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.


Information supplied by English Nature.




Lives or grows for just one year.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
In plants, a small stalk bearing a single flower within an inflorescence (the flower-bearing reproductive shoot of the plant).



Image credit

Purple ramping-fumitory in flower  
Purple ramping-fumitory in flower

© Ro FitzGerald

Ro FitzGerald


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