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Scarlet Pimpernel

Anagallis arvensis

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Primulaceae (Primrose)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Beaches, cliffs, fields, gardens, grassland, lawns, meadows, parks, roadsides, sand dunes, scrub, sea cliffs, towns, wasteland.

Red, 5 petals
5 petals fringed with hairs. Despite the name, the flowers are orange and not scarlet red.
A brown, round fruit capsule which contains many seeds. Ripens from August to October. Up to 6mm across.
The leaves are stalkless and grow in opposite pairs along the stems. They are oval-elliptical with pointed tips. The leaf margins are not toothed. The undersides of the leaves are black-dotted and have many dense white hairs.
Other Names:
Adder's Eyes, Bird's Tongue, Bird's-eye, Blue Pimpernel, Burnet Rose, Clockflower, Common Pimpernel, Cure-all, Eyebright, John-go-to-bed-at-noon, Laughter Bringer, Little Joan, Male Pimpernel, Merecrop, Orange Lily Pernel, Poor Man's Barometer, Poor Man's Weather Glass, Red Chickweed, Red Pimpernel, Shepherd's Calendar, Shepherd's Clock, Shepherd's Delight, Shepherd's Glass, Shepherd's Sundial, Shepherd's Warning, Shepherd's Watch, Shepherd's Weather Glass, Sunflower, Tom Pimpernowl, Waywort, Weather-glass, Winco-pipe, Wink-a-peep.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Anagallis arvensis, commonly known as scarlet pimpernel or red pimpernel, is a species of annual or perennial herb in the Primulaceae family. It is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa and is considered a weed in many parts of the world. The plant has small, blue-green leaves and small, scarlet or orange flowers that grow in clusters. It typically grows as a low-lying groundcover and is often found in disturbed areas such as gardens, agricultural fields, and waste ground. The plant has a long history of use in traditional medicine to treat various ailments such as wounds and burns, but there is limited scientific evidence to support these uses.


The Scarlet Pimpernel, also known as Anagallis arvensis, is a small flowering plant that can be found throughout much of Europe and Asia. Despite its unassuming size, the Scarlet Pimpernel has a rich history and cultural significance, particularly in literature and folklore.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a member of the Primulaceae family and typically grows to be about 5-30 cm tall. Its small, bright red or orange flowers bloom in the summer months and have five petals that are deeply cleft. The plant also produces small, round fruits that contain tiny black seeds.

One of the most well-known cultural references to the Scarlet Pimpernel comes from Baroness Orczy's 1905 novel of the same name. The novel tells the story of Sir Percy Blakeney, a British aristocrat who leads a double life as the Scarlet Pimpernel, a heroic figure who rescues French aristocrats from the guillotine during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. The character of the Scarlet Pimpernel became so popular that it has been adapted into various films, television shows, and stage productions.

In addition to its literary significance, the Scarlet Pimpernel has also played a role in folklore and superstition. In some cultures, it is believed that the plant can be used to ward off evil spirits, and in others, it is said to bring good luck. In England, the Scarlet Pimpernel is sometimes called "shepherd's weatherglass" because the flowers only open in the sunshine, and so can be used to predict the weather.

The Scarlet Pimpernel also has medicinal properties and has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including skin conditions, headaches, and respiratory infections. However, it should be noted that the plant is toxic in large quantities and can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

The Scarlet Pimpernel's scientific name, Anagallis arvensis, is derived from the Greek words "anagelao," meaning to laugh aloud, and "arvenis," meaning of the fields. This is thought to be a reference to the plant's bright, cheerful flowers that can be found growing in open fields and along roadsides.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is an annual plant, meaning it completes its entire life cycle, from seed to flower to seed, within a single growing season. The plant can self-pollinate or be pollinated by insects such as bees and butterflies.

The Scarlet Pimpernel has a long history of use in traditional medicine. In the Middle Ages, the plant was used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It was also used to treat respiratory ailments such as coughs and asthma. In more recent times, the plant has been studied for its potential anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties.

Despite its many uses and cultural significance, the Scarlet Pimpernel is considered a weed in some parts of the world, particularly in agricultural fields. The plant is known to compete with crops for nutrients and can reduce crop yields.

In addition to its traditional uses, the Scarlet Pimpernel has also been used in modern times as a natural dye. The plant's bright red or orange flowers can be used to produce a yellow-orange or reddish-orange dye that is suitable for coloring fabrics such as wool and silk.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is also an important plant for wildlife. The flowers provide a valuable source of nectar for a variety of insects, including bees, butterflies, and hoverflies. The plant is also a host for the caterpillars of the scarce copper and small copper butterflies.

Interestingly, the Scarlet Pimpernel is known for its ability to change color in response to environmental conditions. In dry or hot weather, the plant's flowers may appear orange or even pinkish, while in cooler or wetter weather, they may appear more red. This color change is thought to be a response to changes in the plant's pigments caused by changes in temperature and moisture.

The Scarlet Pimpernel has also been used in various culinary applications. The plant's leaves and flowers are edible and have a slightly bitter, peppery flavor. They can be used fresh in salads or cooked as a spinach substitute. In some parts of Europe, the plant is used to make a traditional dish called Pimpernel soup, which is made with the plant's leaves and other ingredients such as onions and potatoes.

Overall, the Scarlet Pimpernel is a versatile and adaptable plant with a rich cultural and ecological history. From its use in literature and folklore to its traditional medicinal and modern applications, the Scarlet Pimpernel is a testament to the enduring power and value of the natural world. Whether appreciated for its beauty, its uses, or its role in the ecosystem, the Scarlet Pimpernel is a plant that has much to offer.

Facts about Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel, also known as Anagallis arvensis, is a small flowering plant that belongs to the Primulaceae family. Here are some interesting facts and a brief summary about this plant:

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel is native to Europe, but can also be found in North America, Asia, and Africa. It is a common weed in many areas and can grow in a variety of habitats, including fields, meadows, and gardens.

  • The plant's name "pimpernel" comes from the French word "pimprenelle," which means burnet saxifrage. The "scarlet" in its name refers to the bright red flowers that bloom from late spring to early fall.

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel is a low-growing plant that typically reaches heights of 10-40 cm. Its leaves are ovate and arranged in pairs, and its flowers have five petals that are bright red or sometimes blue, with a darker center.

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel has a long history of medicinal use. It was used by ancient Greeks and Romans to treat a variety of ailments, including eye infections and snake bites. Today, it is still used in traditional medicine to treat skin conditions, respiratory problems, and digestive issues.

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel has also been the subject of literature and pop culture. It is the title character in Baroness Orczy's novel "The Scarlet Pimpernel," which tells the story of a heroic Englishman who rescues French aristocrats during the Reign of Terror. The book has been adapted into numerous films, TV series, and stage productions.

In summary, the Scarlet Pimpernel is a small flowering plant with bright red or blue flowers that bloom from late spring to early fall. It is a common weed found in fields, meadows, and gardens, and has a long history of medicinal use. The plant is also the subject of literature and pop culture, most notably as the title character in Baroness Orczy's novel "The Scarlet Pimpernel."


Scarlet Pimpernel filmed at Arnside, Cumbria on the 14th August 2022.


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