I have recently started a new project based on an area of shingle beach nearby the Marina in Brighton, which attracted me due to its small patch of coastal vegetation growing there. Coastal vegetation is very new to me so I will be learning lots from this site and progress on identifying the flora species there has started off very slow, with only 3 species on the list so far! Shingle beaches are particularly harsh environments that are unstable in nature; therefore usually feature changing and sporadic vegetation. There is also much less competition here from other species as it requires specialist plants that can tolerate the salinity, free-draining soils and high sun exposure of the beach. The site follows this pattern, having patches of bare ground and being composed of only a few dominant species at various zones. The lower end of the site appears to be more diverse as it is further away from the coastline and therefore more protected from salt spray, however closer inspection is still needed.
The following species were identified today in the uppermost zone:
Crambe maritima (Sea kale)
A small, shrub-like perennial from the Brassicaceae family (cabbages). Very large, thick, fleshy, grey-green leaves that are wavy and slightly pinnatifid. Fruits are pea-shaped. Common on shingle beaches. The young leaves can be cooked or eaten raw.
Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima (Sea beet)
Annual/perennial from the Chenopodiaceae family (Goosefoots), closely related to the Atriplex genus. It has leafy shoots which look like basal rosettes of long-stalked leaves with cordate-diamond shaped glossy green leaves, which are wavy at the edges. The fleshy stems are square and red-striped. The flowers of this plant resemble those of goosefoot in that they have 5 tepals. The other ssp. (vulgaris) is cultivated for its root (beetroot).
Atriplex laciniata (Frosted Orache)
Another from the Chenopodiaceae family (Goosefoots), from the genus Atriplex of which plants differ from other goosefoots in having separate male and female flowers. This particular plant differs from other Orache’s in having thick, silvery, frosted-looking whitish-grey leaves. Sprawling in habit, found on shingle or sandy habitats.