Archaeophytes

Archaeophytes are non-native (alien) taxa that were introduced by humans, either intentionally or unintentionally, and became naturalised in Britain and Ireland between the start of the Neolithic period and AD1500. Most were introduced by early farmers mainly in the Late Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman or Medieval periods. Many originated as contaminants of crops or as escapes from gardens where they were grown for culinary or medicinal uses.

The rediscovery of the New World around AD1500 brought about radical changes in human demography, agriculture, trade and industry. It therefore marks an appropriate date to differentiate between ancient and modern introductions; those introduced before AD1500 were usually associated with food production whereas those that came after (neophytes) are mainly garden ornamentals and trees used for forestry.

Although the concept of archaeophytes has a long history in Europe, Preston et al. (2004) were the first workers to carry out a critical assessment of those present in Britain and Ireland. They used the following six criteria to identify probable archaeophytes:

  1. A lack of fossil evidence before the Neolithic period
  2. A preference for man-made habitats
  3. Documentary evidence of occurrence in the wild before AD1700
  4. Stable ranges since AD1700 or an increase/decline in response to environmental changes but not having expanded rapidly in new habitats
  5. An uncertain native range in Europe
  6. Likely to have also spread to ‘neo-Europe’ (Australia, New Zealand, North America)

Preston et al. (2004) produced a list of 157 probable archaeophytes including 150 species, 4 subspecies and 3 hybrids. They also listed a further 30 species which were certainly being grown in Britain before AD1500 that are rarely or never naturalised i.e. mainly occurring as crop relics and casuals. In addition, they included a list of 76 species regarded as doubtfully native in Britain but as an archaeophyte or probable archaeophyte elsewhere in Europe. They concluded that “These species are of particular interest as they may contain further taxa which should be considered as archaeophytes in Britain.”

Williamson et al. (2008) enumerate the numbers of archaeophytes included in Preston et al. (2004) that occur in Ireland either as archaeophytes (96 species) or casuals (30 species).

In their list of archaeophytes in Britain and Ireland, Stace & Crawley (2015) used a broader definition including an additional 45 taxa including the 30 species grown in Medieval gardens listed by Preston et al. (2004), 11 infraspecific taxa, 2 trees (walnut Juglans regia, pear Pyrus pyraster), Primitive Wheats Triticum spp. and Grape Vitis vinifera. In comparison to Preston et al. (2004) they differentiate three sub-groups of archaeophytes:

  1. Denizen: having the appearance of being native (i.e. fully naturalised) but with some suspicion of having been originally introduced, e.g. ground elder Aegopodium podagraria.  There are 87 species in this category.
  2. Colonist: almost exclusively confined to disturbed, anthropogenic habitats (cultivated land, roadsides or habitations), e.g. corncockle Agrostemma githago. There are 65 species in this category.
  3. Cultivated: crops or their derivatives that escape or persist, e.g. horseradish Armoracia rusticana. There are 45 species in this category.

It should be noted that many archaeophytes declined dramatically in Britain during the twentieth century. These includes several arable species that are now extinct (lamb's succory Arnoseris minima, stiking hawk's-beard Crepis foetida, small bur-parsley Caucalis platycarpos, narrow-leaved cudweed Filago gallica, downy hemp-nettle Galeopsis segetum, violet horned-poppy Roemeria hybrida) or nearly so (corn cleavers Galium tricornutum, darnel Lolium temulentum) due to improved seed cleaning and increased use of herbicides. Several more are extinct in arable habitats but survive elsewhere as casuals due to deliberate sowing in ‘wildflower mixtures’ (e.g. corncockle Agrostemma githago, thorow-wax Buplureum rotundifolium, cornflower Centaurea cyanus). As pointed out by Preston et al. (2004) these are best treated as neophyte occurrences.

The table below includes the list of archaeophytes for Britain and Ireland produced by Preston et al. (2004) and the update by Stace & Crawley (2015) to include cultivated species introduced before 1500. It also includes the list of archaeophytes for the island of Ireland produced by Williamson et al. (2008).

[table width="100%"]
Scientific name (Stace 2019),English name,Family,Preston et al. (2004),Williamson et al. (2008),Stace & Crawley (2015),Comment
Adonis annua,Pheasant’s-eye,Ranunculaceae,yes,,colonist,
Aegopodium podagraria,Ground-elder,Apiaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Aethusa cynapium subsp. agrestis,Fool’s parsley,Apiaceae,,,colonist,
Agrostemma githago,Corncockle,Caryophyllaceae,yes,casual,colonist,Extinct as archaeophyte; occurs widely as a casual due to seed sowing
Agrostis gigantea,Black bent,Poaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Alcea rosea,Hollyhock,Malvaceae,,,cultivated,
Allium ampeloprasum,Wild leek,Amaryllidaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Allium cepa,Onion,Amaryllidaceae,,,cultivated,
Allium porrum,Leek,Amaryllidaceae,,,cultivated,
Allium sativum,Garlic,Amaryllidaceae,,,cultivated,
Alopecurus myosuroides,Black-grass,Poaceae,yes,casual,colonist,
Anagallis arvensis subsp. foemina,Blue pimpernel,Primulaceae,yes,casual,colonist,
Anchusa arvensis,Bugloss,Boraginaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Anethum graveolens,Dill,Apiaceae,,,cultivated,
Anisantha sterilis,Barren brome,Poaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Anthemis arvensis,Corn chamomile,Asteraceae,yes,casual,colonist,
Anthemis cotula,Stinking chamomile,Asteraceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Anthriscus cerefolium,Garden chervil,Apiaceae,,,cultivated,
Apera spica-venti,Loose silky-bent,Poaceae,yes,casual,colonist,
Arctium lappa,Greater burdock,Asteraceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Armoracia rusticana,Horse-radish,Brassicaceae,yes,,cultivated,
Arnoseris minima,Lamb’s succory,Asteraceae,yes,yes,colonist,Extinct; last recorded in 1971
Artemisia absinthium,Wormwood,Asteraceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Artemisia vulgaris,Mugwort,Asteraceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Asparagus officinalis subsp.officinalis,Garden asparagus,Asparagaceae,yes,yes,cultivated,
Atriplex hortensis,Garden orache,Chenopodiaceae,,,cultivated,
Avena fatua,Wild-oat,Poaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Avena sativa,Oat,Poaceae,,,cultivated,
Avena strigosa,Bristle oat,Poaceae,,,cultivated,
Ballota nigra,Black horehound,Lamiaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Borago officinalis,Borage,Boraginaceae,,,cultivated,
Brassica rapa,Turnip,Brassicaceae,yes,yes,,
Brassica rapa subsp. campestris,Wild turnip,Brassicaceae,,,denizen,
Brassica rapa subsp. rapa,Turnip,Brassicaceae,,,cultivated,
Briza minor,Lesser quaking-grass,Poaceae,yes,casual,colonist,
Bromus secalinus,Rye brome,Poaceae,yes,casual,colonist,
Bupleurum rotundifolium,Thorow-wax,Apiaceae,yes,,colonist,Extinct as archaeophyte; occurs widely as a casual due to seed sowing
Calendula officinalis,Pot marigold,Asteraceae,,,cultivated,
Camelina sativa,Gold-of-pleasure,Brassicaceae,yes,casual,colonist,
Campanula rapunculus,Rampion bellflower,Campanulaceae,yes,,denizen,
Cannabis sativa,Hemp,Cannabaceae,,,cultivated,
Capsella bursa-pastoris,Shepherd’s-purse,Brassicaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Carum carvi,Caraway,Apiaceae,yes,casual,cultivated,
Castanea sativa,Sweet chestnut,Fagaceae,yes,casual,cultivated,
Caucalis platycarpos,Small bur-parsley,Apiaceae,yes,,colonist,Extinct; last recorded in 1971
Centaurea calcitrapa,Red star-thistle,Asteraceae,yes,,denizen,
Centaurea cyanus,Cornflower,Asteraceae,yes,yes,colonist,Extinct as archaeophyte; occurs widely as a casual due to seed sowing
Chaenorhinum minus,Small toadflax,Veronicaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Chelidonium majus,Greater celandine,Papaveraceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Chenopodium bonus-henricus,Good-King-Henry,Chenopodiaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Chenopodium ficifolium,Fig-leaved goosefoot,Chenopodiaceae,yes,casual,colonist,
Chenopodium glaucum,Oak-leaved goosefoot,Chenopodiaceae,yes,casual,denizen,
Chenopodium hybridum,Maple-leaved goosefoot,Chenopodiaceae,yes,,colonist,
Chenopodium murale,Nettle-leaved goosefoot,Chenopodiaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Chenopodium polyspermum,Many-seeded goosefoot,Chenopodiaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Chenopodium urbicum,Upright goosefoot,Chenopodiaceae,yes,,colonist,
Chenopodium vulvaria,Stinking goosefoot,Chenopodiaceae,yes,,denizen,
Cicer arietinum,Chick pea,Fabaceae,,,cultivated,
Cichorium intybus,Chicory,Asteraceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Conium maculatum,Hemlock,Apiaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Coriandrum sativum,Coriander,Apiaceae,,,cultivated,
Crepis foetida,Stinking hawk’s-beard,Asteraceae,yes,,colonist,Extinct; reintroduced in Kent
Cuminum cyminum,Cumin,Apiaceae,,,cultivated,
Descurainia sophia,Flixweed,Brassicaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Diplotaxis tenuifolia,Perennial wall-rocket,Brassicaceae,yes,casual,denizen,
Echium plantagineum,Purple viper’s-bugloss,Boraginaceae,yes,casual,denizen,
Erodium moschatum,Musk stork’s-bill,Geraniaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Eruca vesicaria subsp. sativa,Garden rocket,Brassicaceae,,,cultivated,
Eryngium campestre,Field eryngo,Apiaceae,yes,,denizen,
Erysimum cheiranthoides,Treacle-mustard,Brassicaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Erysimum cheiri,Wallflower,Brassicaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Euphorbia exigua,Dwarf spurge,Euphorbiaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Euphorbia helioscopia,Sun spurge,Euphorbiaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Euphorbia lathyris,Caper spurge,Euphorbiaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Euphorbia peplus,Petty spurge,Euphorbiaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Euphorbia platyphyllos,Broad-leaved spurge,Euphorbiaceae,yes,,colonist,
Fallopia convolvulus,Black-bindweed,Polygonaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Filago gallica,Small cudweed,Asteraceae,yes,,colonist,Extinct; reintroduced in Essex. Also survives in the Channel Islands
Filago pyramidata,Broad-leaved cudweed,Asteraceae,yes,,denizen,
Foeniculum vulgare,Fennel,Apiaceae,yes,casual,denizen,
Fumaria densiflora,Dense-flowered fumitory,Papaveraceae,yes,,colonist,
Fumaria officinalis,Common fumitory,Papaveraceae,yes,yes,,
Fumaria officinalis subsp. officinalis,Common fumitory,Papaveraceae,,,colonist,
Fumaria officinalis subsp. wirtgenii,Common fumitory,Papaveraceae,,,colonist,
Fumaria parviflora,Fine-leaved fumitory,Papaveraceae,yes,,colonist,
Fumaria vaillantii,Few-flowered fumitory,Papaveraceae,yes,,colonist,
Galeopsis angustifolia,Red hemp-nettle,Lamiaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Galeopsis segetum,Downy hemp-nettle ,Lamiaceae,yes,,colonist,
Galeopsis speciosa,Large-flowered,Lamiaceae,yes,yes,colonist,Extinct; last recorded in 1975
Galium tricornutum,Corn cleavers,Rubiaceae,yes,,colonist,Survives on an experimental plot in Hertfordshire; reintroduced to a site in Oxfordshire
Geranium dissectum,Cut-leaved crane’s-bill,Geraniaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Glebionis segetum,Corn marigold,Asteraceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Helminthotheca echioides,Bristly oxtongue,Asteraceae,yes,,denizen,
Hordeum distichon,Two-rowed barley,Poaceae,,,cultivated,
Hordeum murinum,Wall barley,Poaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Hordeum vulgare,Six-rowed barley,Poaceae,,,cultivated,
Hyoscyamus niger,Henbane,Solanaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Imperatoria ostruthium,Masterwort,Apiaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Inula helenium,Elecampane,Asteraceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Isatis tinctoria,Woad,Brassicaceae,yes,casual,cultivated,
Juglans regia,Walnut,Juglandaceae,,,cultivated,
Kickxia elatine,Sharp-leaved fluellen,Veronicaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Kickxia spuria,Round-leaved fluellen,Veronicaceae,yes,,colonist,
Lactuca sativa,Garden lettuce,Asteraceae,,,cultivated,
Lactuca serriola,Prickly lettuce,Asteraceae,yes,casual,denizen,
Lamium album,White dead-nettle,Lamiaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Lamium amplexicaule,Henbit dead-nettle,Lamiaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Lamium confertum,Northern dead-nettle,Lamiaceae,yes,,colonist,
Lamium hybridum,Cut-leaved dead-nettle,Lamiaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Lamium purpureum,Red dead-nettle,Lamiaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Legousia hybrida,Venus’s-looking-glass,Campanulaceae,yes,,colonist,
Lens culinaris,Lentil,Fabaceae,,,cultivated,
Lepidium campestre,Field pepperwort,Brassicaceae,yes,casual,denizen,
Lepidium coronopus,Swine-cress,Brassicaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Lepidium ruderale,Narrow-leaved pepperwort,Brassicaceae,yes,casual,denizen,
Lepidium sativum,Garden cress,Brassicaceae,,,cultivated,
Linaria repens,Pale toadflax,Veronicaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Linum usitatissimum,Flax,Linaceae,,,cultivated,
Lithospermum arvense,Field gromwell,Boraginaceae,yes,,colonist,
Lolium temulentum,Darnel,Poaceae,yes,casual,colonist,"Possibly only on the Aran Islands, Ireland"
Lythrum hyssopifolia,Grass-poly,Lythraceae,yes,casual,denizen,
Malus pumila,Apple,Rosaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Malva neglecta,Dwarf mallow,Malvaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Malva sylvestris,Common mallow,Malvaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Matricaria chamomilla,Scented mayweed,Asteraceae,yes,casual,denizen,
Melilotus altissimus,Tall melilot,Fabaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Mentha spicata,Spear mint,Lamiaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Mercurialis annua,Annual mercury,Euphorbiaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Mespilus germanica,Medlar,Rosaceae,yes,,denizen,
Misopates orontium,Weasel’s-snout,Veronicaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Myosotis arvensis,Field forget-me-not,Boraginaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Nepeta cataria,Cat-mint,Lamiaceae,yes,,denizen,
Onopordum acanthium,Cotton thistle,Asteraceae,yes,casual,denizen,
Papaver argemone,Prickly poppy,Papaveraceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Papaver dubium,Long-headed poppy,Papaveraceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Papaver hybridum,Rough poppy,Papaveraceae,yes,casual,colonist,
Papaver lecoqii,Yellow-juiced poppy,Papaveraceae,,,colonist,
Papaver rhoeas,Common poppy,Papaveraceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Papaver somniferum,Opium poppy,Papaveraceae,yes,casual,cultivated,
Petroselinum crispum,Garden parsley,Apiaceae,yes,yes,cultivated,
Pisum sativum,Garden pea,Fabaceae,,,cultivated,
Polygonum arenastrum,Equal-leaved knotgrass,Polygonaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Polygonum rurivagum,Cornfield knotgrass,Polygonaceae,yes,casual,colonist,
Portulaca oleracea,Common purslane,Portulacaceae,,,cultivated,
Prunus cerasus,Dwarf cherry,Rosaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Prunus domestica,Plum,Rosaceae,yes,yes,,
Prunus domestica subsp. domestica,Plum,Rosaceae,,,denizen,
Prunus domestica subsp. insititia,"Damson, Bullace",Rosaceae,,,cultivated,
Prunus domestica subsp. italica,Greengage,Rosaceae,,,cultivated,
Pyrus communis s.l.,Pear,Rosaceae,yes,casual,cultivated,
Pyrus pyraster,Wild pear,Rosaceae,,,denizen,
Ranunculus arvensis,Corn buttercup,Ranunculaceae,yes,,colonist,
Raphanus raphanistrum subsp.raphanistrum,Wild radish,Brassicaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Raphanus sativus,Garden radish,Brassicaceae,,,cultivated,
Reseda luteola,Weld,Resedaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Roemeria hybrida,Violet horned-poppy,Papaveraceae,yes,,denizen,Extinct; possibly last recorded in Suffolk in 1956
Rumex alpinus,Monk’s rhubarb,Polygonaceae,yes,,denizen,
Salix alba,White willow,Salicaceae,yes,casual,denizen,
Salix alba × S. euxina,Crack-willow,Salicaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Salix triandra,Almond willow,Salicaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Salix triandra × S. viminalis,Sharp-stipuled willow,Salicaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Salix viminalis,Osier,Salicaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Sambucus ebulus,Dwarf elder,Caprifoliaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Saponaria officinalis,Soapwort,Caryophyllaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Scandix pecten-veneris,Shepherd’s-needle,Apiaceae,yes,,colonist,
Secale cereale,Rye,Poaceae,,,cultivated,
Sedum album,White stonecrop,Crassulaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Silene gallica,Small-flowered catchfly,Caryophyllaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Silene latifolia,White campion,Caryophyllaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Silene noctiflora,Night-flowering catchfly,Caryophyllaceae,yes,casual,colonist,
Silybum marianum,Milk thistle,Asteraceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Sinapis alba,White mustard,Brassicaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Sinapis arvensis,Charlock,Brassicaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Sisymbrium officinale,Hedge mustard,Brassicaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Smyrnium olusatrum,Alexanders,Apiaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Spinacia oleracea,Spinach,Chenopodiaceae,,,cultivated,
Stachys arvensis,Field woundwort,Lamiaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Tanacetum parthenium,Feverfew,Asteraceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Thlaspi arvense,Field penny-cress,Brassicaceae,yes,yes,colonist,
Torilis arvensis,Spreading,Apiaceae,yes,,colonist,
Trigonella foenum-graecum,Fenugreek,Fabaceae,,,cultivated,
Tripleurospermum inodorum,Scentless mayweed,Asteraceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Triticum aestivum,Bread wheat,Poaceae,,,cultivated,
"Triticum species (T. dicoccon, T. compactum, T. monococcum, T. spelta)",Primitive wheats,Poaceae,,,cultivated,
Urtica urens,Small nettle,Urticaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Valerianella carinata,Keeled-fruited cornsalad,Valerianaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Valerianella dentata,Narrow-fruited cornsalad,Valerianaceae,yes,casual,colonist,
Valerianella rimosa,Broad-fruited cornsalad,Valerianaceae,yes,,colonist,
Verbena officinalis,Vervain,Verbenaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Veronica agrestis,Green field-speedwell,Veronicaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Veronica hederifolia,Ivy-leaved speedwell,Veronicaceae,yes,yes,,
Veronica hederifolia subsp. hederifolia,Ivy-leaved speedwell,Veronicaceae,,,denizen,
Veronica hederifolia subsp. lucorum,Ivy-leaved speedwell,Veronicaceae,,,denizen,
Veronica triphyllos,Fingered speedwell,Veronicaceae,yes,,denizen,
Vicia faba,Broad bean,Fabaceae,,,cultivated,
Vicia sativa subsp. sativa,Common vetch,Fabaceae,yes,yes,cultivated,
Vicia sativa subsp. segetalis,Common vetch,Fabaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Vinca minor,Lesser periwinkle,Apocynaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Viola arvensis,Field pansy,Violaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
Vitis vinifera,Grape-vine,Vitaceae,,,cultivated,
Vulpia myuros,Rat’s-tail fescue,Poaceae,yes,yes,denizen,
[/table]