Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Ajuga pyramidalis – pyramidal bugle


Distribution map

Click here to view an interactive map of the Northern Ireland dataset as currently collated by CEDaR.
The map is generated through the NBN Gateway using their Interactive Mapping Tool.


Ajuga pyramidalis L.
Family: Lamiaceae

This boreal-montane species was first found in Northern Ireland on Rathlin Island in the 1960s and was then independently refound in 1980. Elsewhere in Ireland Pyramid Bugle has been found at one site in west Donegal and at several sites in Connemara and the Aran Islands.

In brief

  • Pyramid Bugle is, in Northern Ireland, known only from Rathlin Island
  • It prefers unimproved or semi-improved acid grassland which occurs at the base of basalt outcrops
  • Pyramid Bugle flowers in the months of May and June
  • Pyramid Bugle is rare with the Northern Ireland population being confined to Rathlin Island. The centre of distribution in the British Isles is the coastal areas of the north of Scotland
  • Over-grazing or changes in land use could threaten this species

Species description
Pyramid Bugle is a Labiate which is superficially similar to Bugle. Bugle has stolons which Pyramid Bugle lacks, and in Bugle the upper part of the square stem is hairy on just two opposite sides while Pyramid Bugle has hairs on all four sides.

Life cycle
Pyramid Bugle is a perennial plant in which reproduction is mainly from seed which is long-lived and often germinates after disturbance.

Similar species
The only similar species is Bugle from which Pyramid Bugle differs in having hairs on four sides if the stem instead of two.

How to see this species
To see this species one needs to travel to the western end on Rathlin Island in May or early June. The plant could turn up on headlands near the sea elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

Current status
This species is protected in Northern Ireland under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order, 1985, which makes it an offence to pick uproot, or to destroy this plant.

Why is this species a priority in Northern Ireland?
Pyramid Bugle is rare with the Northern Ireland population being confined to Rathlin Island. The species is an Irish Red Dada Book species classed as vulnerable.

Threats/Causes of decline
Change of land use at the species’ sites on Rathlin is the main threat in Northern Ireland; traditional farming practices at the sites should be maintained.

Conservation of this species

Current action
Kebble, the area on Rathlin where Pyramid Bugle occurs, has been declared as an ASSI. The area is important because of its heathland, grassland and wetland vegetation, in addition to its associated plant and animal species.

Proposed objectives/actions
Ensure that the current population is maintained, and if possible increased, through appropriate habitat management and the finding of new sites.

What you can do
If you think you have found this species, contact your local Biodiversity Officer through this link:

Or you can submit your records to CEDaR

The study of wild plants is an interesting hobby for anyone interested in the outdoors. The Botanical Society of the British Isles welcomes beginners to its field trips

Further information

Northern Ireland Vascular Plant Database

BSBI species accounts

Hackney, P. (1992). Stewart and Corry’s Flora of the North-east of Ireland (third Edition) Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University, Belfast.

Harron, J. (1986) Flora of Lough Neagh. Irish Naturalists’ journal Committee and the University of Ulster, Coleraine

McNeill, I. (2010). The Flora of County Tyrone. National Museums Northern Ireland, Belfast.

Preston C.D. and Crift, J.M. (1997). Aquatic Plants in Britain and Ireland. Harley Books, Colchester.

Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A., Dines, T.D. (2002). New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Stace, C.A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles Third Edition. Cambridge University Press.

Text written by:
Robert Northridge