Thursday, 15 April 2010

Danish Scurvy-Grass - a winner

The verges and central reservations of roads are in bloom -with a small, fast-moving plant called Danish Scurvy-Grass.
Eric Philp's Atlas of Kent Flora (1982) shows it only around Sandwich Bay and on the Dungeness peninsula, but now it can be seen lining the roads throughout the county. I look forward to the new edition.
Its success is based on its tolerance of salt which prohibits the growth of competitors, and on its seeds' ability to cling on to vehicles travelling along the roads. The end of the practice of spraying verges has also helped, of course.

A report by JJ Day in the Worcestershire Biological Records Centre illustrates the plant's spread in that county:

In 1989, it appeared on the M50 motorway, in the extreme southwest of the county.
By the mid-1990s it had colonised most of the motorway and dual carriageway network.
By the late-1990s it had spread to other A-roads and some B-roads.
There is now a spread into urban areas.

The average rate of colonisation was 30.5 km/year, or 3.5 metres per hour.

So far as I know, English Scurvy-grass (Cochlearia officinalis ssp anglica) remains in its normal habitat on sandy or muddy shores, while its Scandinavian cousin keeps on truckin'.

A similarly successful species is Oxford Ragwort, which used the railway system to spread from its initial toehold in Oxford to spread across the country. This particular specimen is just starting to flower, a few feet above the railway track at Dover.
And finally........ JMW Turner's superb paintings of sunsets benefited from the ash from volcanic eruptions in the nineteenth century. Now every amateur photographer will be shooting the sky.


Greenie said...

Steve ,
That Danish Scurvy-Grass is everything that you say it is .
Probably un-noticed for the majority of the year whilst 'trucking on' , but very obvious now , whilst in flower .

Warren Baker said...

I wonder what affect the eruption wil have on our future weather steve ? Much of the Mini- ice age was put down to volcanic eruptions.

still waiting for a clear enough sky to get a decent sunset :-)