Danish Scurvy-Grass

I recently noticed an interesting plant growing right by the side of the Western Boulevard ring-road…..

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There is a distinctive line of white low-growing flowers alongside the road edge – this is Danish scurvy-grass (Cochlearia danica), a member of the cabbage family.  Here’s a closer look, unfortunately not of the best quality….

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Danish scurvy-grass is a coastal plant, whose common name derives from the fact that sailors used to chew its vitamin-C rich leaves to ward off scurvy.  Its usual habitat is coastal sand, shingle and salt-marsh, but it is no surprise to find it so far inland.  It is adapted to grow in places with high salt levels which would be intolerable to most species, and the application of salt to main roads in winter has made the very edge of such roads an ideal habitat for it (and not very good for much else).

The plant has therefore spread inland from the coast along roads and motorways, aided by the turbulence from passing high-speed traffic, which rapidly distributes its tiny seeds.  As a result, it is now one of the most widely-expanding native plants in Britain.

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Look out for it next time you’re on or near a major road – it’s flowering now and at it’s most conspicuous.

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