Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Anagallis arvensis
(scarlet pimpernel)



Anagallis arvensis (scarlet pimpernel)


  • Last modified
  • 06 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Anagallis arvensis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • scarlet pimpernel
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae

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Top of page
A. arvensis flowering. Leaves of other species are present.
TitleFlowering plant
CaptionA. arvensis flowering. Leaves of other species are present.
CopyrightJohn T. Swarbrick
A. arvensis flowering. Leaves of other species are present.
Flowering plantA. arvensis flowering. Leaves of other species are present.John T. Swarbrick
A. arvensis flowering. Note that blue and red form flowers are both present. Leaves of other species are present.
TitleFlowering plant
CaptionA. arvensis flowering. Note that blue and red form flowers are both present. Leaves of other species are present.
CopyrightJohn T. Swarbrick
A. arvensis flowering. Note that blue and red form flowers are both present. Leaves of other species are present.
Flowering plantA. arvensis flowering. Note that blue and red form flowers are both present. Leaves of other species are present.John T. Swarbrick
CopyrightJohn T. Swarbrick
SeedlingsJohn T. Swarbrick
Single flower (red form) and unripe seed pods of A. arvensis.
TitleFlower and seed pods.
CaptionSingle flower (red form) and unripe seed pods of A. arvensis.
CopyrightJohn T. Swarbrick
Single flower (red form) and unripe seed pods of A. arvensis.
Flower and seed pods.Single flower (red form) and unripe seed pods of A. arvensis.John T. Swarbrick
Close-up of A. arvensis seedlings. Note matchstick for scale.
CaptionClose-up of A. arvensis seedlings. Note matchstick for scale.
CopyrightJohn T. Swarbrick
Close-up of A. arvensis seedlings. Note matchstick for scale.
SeedlingsClose-up of A. arvensis seedlings. Note matchstick for scale.John T. Swarbrick


Top of page

Preferred Scientific Name

  • Anagallis arvensis L. (1753)

Preferred Common Name

  • scarlet pimpernel

Other Scientific Names

  • Anagallis caerulea L. (1759)
  • Anagallis coerulea Nathh.
  • Anagallis foemina Miller
  • Anagallis latifolia L. (1753)
  • Anagallis mas Vill. (1787)
  • Anagallis phoenicea Scop. (1772)
  • Anagallis verticillata All. (1785)

International Common Names

  • English: blue pimpernel; care-all; common pimpernel; poor man's weatherglass; red chickweed
  • Spanish: coralillo; jaboncillo; murrajes; pilpis; pimpinela escarlata
  • French: morgeline; morgeline d'ete; mouron des champs; mouron rouge
  • Arabic: 'ayen el jamel
  • Portuguese: escarlate; morriao vermelho; murriao

Local Common Names

  • Algeria: lizireg; meridjana
  • Brazil: escalarte
  • Chile: pimpinela azul
  • Croatia: krika poljska
  • Czechoslovakia (former): drchnicka roini
  • Denmark: rod arve
  • Egypt: 'ain el-gamal; omm lebben; qonfooda; saboon gheit
  • Finland: puna alpi
  • Germany: Acker Gauchheil; Feld Gauchheil; Roter Gauchheil
  • Hungary: mezel tikszem
  • India: biliputi (Punjabi); krishnaneel
  • Iran: bazrak vahshee
  • Iraq: rmaimeeneh
  • Italy: anagallide rossa; bellichina; mordi-gallina
  • Japan: akabana aruri hakobe
  • Lebanon: adhan el far el nabti; lubbayn; zaghila
  • Macedonia: vidovcica crvena
  • Mauritius: mouron
  • Netherlands: gewoon guichelheil; guichelheil
  • Norway: nonsblom; rodarve
  • Pakistan: bili booti
  • Poland: kurzyslad polny
  • Slovenia: njivna kurja cesnjica
  • South Africa: blouseblommetjie; rooimuur
  • Sweden: rodarv; roedarv
  • Taiwan: hwo-jin-gu
  • Turkey: tarla farekulagi
  • USA: poison chickweed; poisonweed; shepherd's clock; wink-a-peep
  • USA/Hawaii: poisonous pimpernel
  • Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro): vidovcia

EPPO code

  • ANGAR (Anagallis arvensis)
  • ANGCO (Anagallis coerulea)

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Primulales
  •                         Family: Primulaceae
  •                             Genus: Anagallis
  •                                 Species: Anagallis arvensis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page The genus Anagallis contains about 28 species. They are of widespread origin, with many from the European-Mediterranean region, but only A. arvensis is a widespread weed. Two naturally occurring subspecies or colour forms are common: subsp. phoenicia with red flowers; and subsp. caerulea (or coerulea) with blue flowers. Both are extremely variable genetically and morphologically, and many other subspecies have been described. Gasquez and Compoint (1978) and Compoint and Gasquez (1980) discuss the taxonomy of the various forms. The subspecies hybridize readily, and deliberate horticultural hybridization and selection have resulted in a wide range of intermediate flower colours including mauve, pink and white. When naturalized as a weed, A. arvensis subspecies soon revert to either red or blue.

The meaning of Anagallis is obscure, but may mean unpretentious; arvensis refers to its frequent occurrence in fields.

The chromosome number for both subspecies is normally 2n = 40 (Clapham et al., 1987), but polyploidy is believed to occur in some varieties.


Top of page A. arvensis is typically a much branched, prostrate, annual herb with a fibrous root system, although the generally weak stems can also be ascending or even erect and up to 50 cm tall.

Dense mats of weak quadrangular stems usually spread outwards from a central base to cover up to 0.25 m². They are hairless and dotted with small dark glands, and have short internodes.

The leaves occur in opposite pairs or rarely in whorls of three. They are ovate, stalkless, 5 to 25 mm long, with rounded bases, smooth margins and bluntly pointed tips. They are smooth and hairless, densely dotted beneath with small dark glands, and usually dark-green.

The small orange-red, red, blue or occasionally pink or white flowers occur singly in the leaf axils on slender stalks, which hold the flowers erect whilst open but bend downwards in fruit. Each flower has a small, green, 5-pointed calyx, five oval or rounded petals 3 to 5 mm long, and five erect stamens around the unbranched central style.

The fruits are rounded, papery capsules 3 to 5 mm across, green at first and ripening to brown before the top breaks away to release the numerous seeds. Each seed is about 1 mm long, brown, angled and finely pitted.

The seedlings exhibit epigeal germination. The hypocotyl is 2 to 10 mm long, and the spreading cotyledons ovate to elliptic and 2 to 5 mm long. A single stem with small opposite leaves usually develops above them, with lateral branches developing in all leaf axils.


Top of page A. arvensis originated in Europe and has been spread, both deliberately as an ornamental and accidentally as a weed, throughout the world. It occurs throughout Europe, except for the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Spitzbergen and northern Russia (Ferguson, 1972). It probably now occurs in all temperate, subtropical and tropical countries, but is principally a weed in cool to warm temperate countries, and in the cooler areas of tropical highlands.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


AfghanistanPresentHolm et al., 1991
BhutanPresentParker, 1992
ChinaWidespreadHiepko, 1988; Holm et al., 1991; Tang, 1991
IndiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
-BiharPresentSingh et al., 1996
-GujaratPresentBhattacharyya and Pandya, 1996
-HaryanaPresentBalyan and Malik, 1992; Malik et al., 1993
-Indian PunjabPresentMehra et al., 1993
-Jammu and KashmirPresentSingh and Khosla, 1989
-Madhya PradeshPresentKurchainia et al., 1995
-MaharashtraPresentSadekar et al., 1996
-RajasthanPresentPorwal and Singh, 1993
-Uttar PradeshPresentTripathi et al., 1993; Singh and Singh, 1996
-West BengalPresentMukhopadhyay and Duary, 1995
IranWidespreadBischof, 1978; Holm et al., 1991
IraqPresentHassawy et al., 1968; Holm et al., 1991
IsraelPresentHiepko, 1988; Holm et al., 1991
JapanPresentIshimine et al., 1982
-HonshuPresentNumata et al., 1975
-KyushuPresentNumata et al., 1975
-ShikokuPresentNumata et al., 1975
JordanPresentQasem, 1996
Korea, Republic ofPresentHolm et al., 1991
LebanonPresentHiepko, 1988; Holm et al., 1991
NepalPresentDangol, 1987
OmanPresentChaudhary et al., 1981
PakistanWidespreadFazali and Khan, 1991; Holm et al., 1991; Ghafoor and Shad, 1995
Saudi ArabiaPresentChaudhary et al., 1981; Chaudhary and Zawawi, 1983; Hiepko, 1988; Holm et al., 1991
TaiwanPresentNational, 1968; Horng and Leu, 1980; Holm et al., 1991
TurkeyPresentBischof, 1978; Holm et al., 1991; Tepe et al., 1994
United Arab EmiratesPresentChaudhary et al., 1981
YemenPresentChaudhary et al., 1981


AlgeriaPresentHiepko, 1988
Cape VerdePresentDuarte, 1995; Figueiredo, 1995
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentHolm et al., 1991
EgyptPresentEl Bially & El Samie, 1996; Shams El Din & Salwau, 1994; Holm et al., 1991
EthiopiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991; Sahile et al., 1992
KenyaPresentIvens, 1967; Hepper, 1983; Holm et al., 1991
MauritiusPresentHiepko, 1988; Holm et al., 1991
MoroccoPresentHolm et al., 1991; Tanji and Taleb, 1994
NigeriaPresentTaylor, 1963
SenegalWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
South AfricaPresentWells et al., 1986; Holm et al., 1991
-Canary IslandsPresentSiverio et al., 2011
TanzaniaPresentIvens, 1967
TunisiaWidespreadMoens et al., 1980; Hiepko, 1988; Holm et al., 1991

North America

CanadaPresentHolm et al., 1991
MexicoWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
USAWidespreadLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Holm et al., 1991
-HawaiiPresentNeal, 1965; HASELWOOD and MOTTER, 1966; Holm et al., 1991
-MarylandPresentBeste, 1976
-TennesseePresentUniversity, 1965

South America

ArgentinaPresentHolm et al., 1991
BrazilPresentCosta et al., 1984; Holm et al., 1991
-ParanaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Rio Grande do SulPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Santa CatarinaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Sao PauloPresentLorenzi, 1982
ChilePresentde Vellejo, 1980; Holm et al., 1991
PeruPresentHolm et al., 1991


BelgiumWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
CyprusPresentZannetos et al., 1976
Czechoslovakia (former)PresentKoblihova, 1989; Holm et al., 1991
DenmarkPresentAndreasen et al., 1996
FinlandPresentHiepko, 1988
FranceWidespreadBarralis and Chadoeuf, 1988; Holm et al., 1991
GermanyWidespreadHolm et al., 1991; Milton et al., 1997
GreeceWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
HungaryPresentHunyadi, 1973; Hiepko, 1988; Holm et al., 1991
ItalyPresentHolm et al., 1991; Borin et al., 1995
NorwayPresentOuren, 1994
PolandPresentKwiatoska, 1995; Hiepko, 1988; Holm et al., 1991
PortugalWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
Russian FederationPresentHiepko, 1988; Holm et al., 1991
SpainPresentGarcia-Torres and Vazquez-Cobo, 1979; Holm et al., 1991
SwedenPresentFogelfors, 1984
SwitzerlandPresentBeuret and Caputa, 1983
UKWidespreadHolm et al., 1991; Stevens et al., 1994
UkrainePresentGamor, 1987
Yugoslavia (former)PresentDrazic and Glusac, 1991; Holm et al., 1991


AustraliaPresentHolm et al., 1991
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-New South WalesWidespreadHnatiuk, 1990; Lazarides et al., 1997
-QueenslandWidespreadHnatiuk, 1990; Lazarides et al., 1997
-South AustraliaWidespreadLazarides et al.,1997; Whibley and Christensen, 1982; Hnatiuk, 1990
-TasmaniaWidespreadHnatiuk, 1990; Lazarides et al., 1997
-VictoriaWidespreadWilding et al., 1986; Hnatiuk, 1990; Lazarides et al., 1997
-Western AustraliaWidespreadHnatiuk, 1990; Hussey et al., 1997; Lazarides et al., 1997
New CaledoniaPresentMacKee, 1985
New ZealandWidespreadTaylor, 1980; Holm et al., 1991; Dastgheib and Popay, 1995


Top of page A. arvensis requires bare soil for germination, and is therefore only common in disturbed places. It requires moist soil but does not tolerate waterlogging, and for successful growth requires ample sunlight without undue shading. It tolerates ground frost to -10° C, but not frozen soil. The plant grows in a wide variety of soils so long as they are moist and well drained, and thrives near the sea and in sandy soils. The species appears most commonly as a winter annual in warmer climates and as a summer annual in colder areas and situations.

Habitat List

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Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page In addition to the crops listed, A. arvensis may occur as a minor weed of any crop which is grown within its range. It also occurs in gardens, meadows, turf, field borders and other disturbed uncultivated places including native vegetation.

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Allium cepa (onion)LiliaceaeOther
Amaranthus hybridus (smooth pigweed)AmaranthaceaeOther
Arachis hypogaea (groundnut)FabaceaeMain
Avena sativa (oats)PoaceaeMain
Beta vulgaris (beetroot)ChenopodiaceaeMain
Brassica juncea var. juncea (Indian mustard)BrassicaceaeOther
Brassica napus var. napus (rape)BrassicaceaeOther
Brassica oleracea (cabbages, cauliflowers)BrassicaceaeOther
Capsicum annuum (bell pepper)SolanaceaeOther
Chamomilla recutita (common chamomile)AsteraceaeOther
Cicer arietinum (chickpea)FabaceaeOther
Cucurbita (pumpkin)CucurbitaceaeOther
Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus (globe artichoke)AsteraceaeOther
Daucus carota (carrot)ApiaceaeOther
Fragaria ananassa (strawberry)RosaceaeOther
Glycine max (soyabean)FabaceaeOther
Helianthus annuus (sunflower)AsteraceaeMain
Hordeum vulgare (barley)PoaceaeMain
Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato)ConvolvulaceaeMain
Lens culinaris subsp. culinaris (lentil)FabaceaeOther
Linum usitatissimum (flax)Main
Medicago sativa (lucerne)FabaceaeOther
Mentha arvensis (Corn mint)LamiaceaeOther
Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)SolanaceaeMain
Oryza sativa (rice)PoaceaeMain
Pimpinella anisum (aniseed)ApiaceaeOther
Pisum sativum (pea)FabaceaeOther
Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane)PoaceaeOther
Scorzonera hispanica (oyster plant)AsteraceaeOther
Secale cereale (rye)PoaceaeOther
Solanum tuberosum (potato)SolanaceaeMain
Trifolium repens (white clover)FabaceaeOther
Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek)FabaceaeOther
Triticum aestivum (wheat)PoaceaeMain
Vicia faba (faba bean)FabaceaeOther
Vitis vinifera (grapevine)VitaceaeOther
Zea mays (maize)PoaceaeMain

Biology and Ecology

Top of page The reproduction of A. arvensis is entirely by seed.

Shoot and root length, node and leaf number, and shoot dry weight all vary with both genotype and growth conditions, making it difficult to draw uniform conclusions about the responses of Anagallis arvensis to environmental conditions. Indian genotypes have been found to grow well under 50-100% sunlight, with lower light intensities being better tolerated during early growth.

Variations in genotype and phenotype result in large differences in seed production per plant; from 900 under field conditions in Britain to 250,000 in a glasshouse. Up to 2480 viable seeds have been recorded per square metre of soil after 8 years of cropping and 1 year of pasture in Britain, and in a separate observation seeds have been shown to remain viable in field soils for up to 10 years (Holm et al., 1977).

Dormancy in viable seeds relies on complex interrelationships between intrinsic and extrinsic factors, ensuring prolonged dormancy of some seeds whilst others germinate almost throughout the year, although only those germinating under favourable conditions may be expected to survive and reproduce. Germination in different genotypes has been shown to be dependent on various combinations of light and temperature. The species is capable of germination between 2 and 25°C, and optimum germination has been recorded in light at 10-20°C (Holm et al., 1977).

Although flowering in A. arvensis is usually initiated by lengthening days, this response is variable and may be modified by temperature so that some plants may flower under a wide range of daylengths.

The plant reacts to increasing soil nutrient status with greater and more vigorous growth.

The biology and ecology of A. arvensis are discussed in more detail in Holm et al. (1977) and Reddy et al. (1989).

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page No information is available on the natural enemies of A. arvensis, other than it being an alternate host for various crop diseases (see Economic Impact).

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Land vehicles Yes


Top of page The low growth and small root system of A. arvensis suggest that it is not a very competitive weed in most crops, and this is supported by a number of studies in different countries. It may, however, germinate early in spring before other weeds (and crops) become established, develop into dense masses, and thereby suppress the early growth of slow growing crops.

A. arvensis has often been considered to be poisonous to stock, but with little supporting evidence from the field. Indoor feeding tests show potential toxicity in some animals, but since it is selectively left in pastures by grazing animals it is probably unpalatable. There is a recent record of buffalo and cattle deaths in India after field grazing of A. arvensis (Sadekar et al., 1996). Cases of human dermatitis have been reported after handling the plant.

The seeds of A. arvensis contaminate small-seeded field crops such as lucerne and clovers.

A. arvensis is an alternative host for a range of other pests, including beet yellows closterovirus (Stevens et al., 1994), Alternaria brassicae (Ansari et al., 1990), Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (Singh and Singh, 1986), Botrytis cinerea (Madhu-Meeta et al., 1986) and root knot nematodes (Alam, 1981).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Spermolepis hawaiiensis (Hawaii scaleseed)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources


Top of page All subspecies of A. arvensis have been used both as ornamental plants and as parents for hybridization to produce new cultivars.

The plant was formerly also used medicinally in Europe (Fogelfors, 1984), and is still so used in parts of India (Mukhopadhyay and Duary, 1995). It is apparently eaten as a salad and vegetable in Sweden (Fogelfors, 1984).

Uses List

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  • Host of pest


  • Ornamental

Human food and beverage

  • Vegetable


  • Poisonous to mammals

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page A. pumila, widespread in the tropics and occurring occasionally as a weed, can be distinguished from A. arvensis by its alternate leaves and whitish flowers which occur in leafy racemes towards the ends of the stems.

Prevention and Control

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Cultural Control

A. arvensis can usually be controlled by careful inter-row and interplant cultivation, although repeated cultivation may be necessary throughout its growing season. Competition from taller crops is important in reducing its competitiveness. Deep weed-free mulches will generally prevent further germination.

Chemical Control

A. arvensis is poorly controlled by many of the earlier selective herbicides that are safe to use in cereal crops, although spraying young seedlings with either 2,4-D or MCPA will give some control (Ivens, 1967).

A considerable amount of work with newer herbicides (especially in India) has shown that the following are safe and effective in appropriate crops: aziprotryne applied post-emergence in cabbage (Dastgheib and Popay, 1995); chlortoluron applied post-emergence achieved 90% control in wheat (Fazali and Khan, 1991); cyanazine + linuron gave 95% control in peas (Pisum sativum) (Hussain et al., 1990); fluchloralin in chickpea (Maliwal and Jain, 1991; Singh and Bajpai, 1992); fluroxypyr gave excellent control when applied post emergence in wheat (Balyan and Malik, 1992); isoproturon applied pre-emergence in wheat (Yadav et al., 1995) and mustard (Tiwari and Kurchainia, 1993). Various other recommendations are listed below:

methabenzthiazuron (Maliwal and Jain, 1991);
metoxuron (Tiwari and Kurchainia, 1993);
metribuzin (Bains et al., 1980);
metsulfuron-methyl (Pandey and Singh, 1994);
nitrofen (Sharma et al., 1988);
oxadiazon (Singh and Bajpai, 1992; Tiwari and Kurchainia, 1993; Kurchainia et al., 1995);
pendimethalin (Hussain et al., 1990, Singh and Bajpai, 1992);
pendimethalin + oxyflurfen (Scheffer and Hume, 1988, Shams El Din and Salwau, 1994);
terbutron methyl (Pandey and Singh, 1994);
terbutryn + terbuthylazine (Shams El Din and Salwau, 1994);
tribenuron (Malik et al., 1993).

Recommendations for herbicide use in many crops in France are provided by Mamarot and Rodriguez (1997). These include, for example, aclonifen and bentazone.

Registrations for A. arvensis control in Australia include norflurazon, glufosinate-ammonium, bromoxynil + diflufenican, MCPA + terbutryn, metribuzin, chlorthal, chloradiazon, and DSMA + MCPA (Hamilton, 1997).

Biological Control

There have been no attempts at biological control of A. arvensis.


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Andreasen C, Stryhn H, Streibig JC, 1996. Decline of the flora in Danish arable fields. Journal of Applied Ecology, 33(3):619-626; 44 ref.

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Drazic D, Glusac D, 1991. Effectiveness and selectiveness of herbicide combination in maize. Savremena Poljoprivreda, 39(5):33-38

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