On the evening before the Blood Moon, a group of a dozen or so of us met at Holme to tramp the saltmarsh there, expertly led by Simon Harrap. The weather was perfect for our walk with a gently setting sun and a light breeze.

Despite the prolonged dry spell we have been having there was still much to see and not even a golf course could ruin the landscape! We started on dunes in the uppermost margin of the saltmarsh where shrubby seablite (Suaeda vera) was growing in abundance. It is a low growing bushy shrub with small succulent leaves. Around it was growing sea purslane (Atriplex portulacoides), a small grey-green orache and several types of sea lavender, including Limonium binervosum subsp. Anglicum, which grows only in this part of the world.

We moved on to a slight depression where sea sedges were growing and here we found sea sandwort (Honckenya peploides), a low-growing succulent with tiny white flowers and pea like green seed pods, common restharrow (Ononis repens) and tiny, pink flowered slender centaury (Centaurium tenuiflorum). A further band of dunes was covered with sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), a shrub or small tree whose sharp spines were protecting its ripening berries. Growing among the grasses here were red bartsia (Odontites vernus), which is similar to yellow rattle in being hemiparasitic on grass roots; brookweed (Samolus valerandi), a tiny white flowered plant related to Primulas; sea milkwort (Glaux maritima), which is similar to sea sandwort but has pink flowers and a sea of spiky sea club-rush (Bolboschoenus maritimus).

Beyond these dunes were flats in which sea asters (Aster tripolium), various hawkweeds and wild carrots were flourishing. The main grass here was common cordgrass (Spartina anglica) a small saltmarsh grass that is a cross between two other cordgrasses and was introduced in the 19th century to help control erosion as its dense root system and rhizomes spread rapidly once established. Also seen here were small colonies of biting stonecrop (Sedum acre); blue fleabane (Erigeron acris); both great and prickly lettuce (Lactuca virosa and L. serriola); sea spurge (Euphorbia paralias); annual seablite (Suaeda maritima) a much smaller version of shrubby seablite and lyme grass (Leymus arenarius).

We were now almost at the sea shore and the only plants that were growing here were the delicate frosted orache (Atriplex lacinata) that had “sugar-frosted” silvery white leaves; prickly saltwort (Salsola kali) a prostrate succulent that was covered in sharp spines; sea rocket (Cakile maritima) that was all dried up and had small inflated seed pods and sea holly (Eryngium maritimum), generally much lower growing that the garden varieties.

The sea holly grew all over the marsh as did thrift (Armeria maritima), sea beat (Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima) and samphire (also known as glasswort due to its ashes being used in glassmaking), both annual (Salicornia spp.) and perennial (Sarcocornia perennis). As we made our way back to the car park we passed the distinctive smelling sea wormwood (Artemisia maritima).

It was a real pleasure to find such a diverse range of plants growing in such inhospitable conditions and to be able to put names to them.


Words by Peter Lyle




Pictures: David King

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Thursday 26th July, 2018