Oh it does like to be beside the seaside

In common with yesterday’s post, this one is inspired by finding some images in my photo library when looking for something else. Erygiums are commonly called sea hollies, after the species that is native to Northern Europe. In gardens they are represented by other species. The most common are E. planum, with rounded basal leaves and wiry, much-branched stems with silvery blue flowers, E. giganteum, a biennial with soft, rounded basal leaves and very spiky silvery flowers and E. alpinum with very frilly bracts around the flowers. All the European species have colourful flowers and are rarely grown for their foliage. In contrast, the South American species have a very different look, with rosettes of narrow leaves, often armed with spines, and tall stems of rather dull flowers with less attractive bracts surrounding the blooms.

Sea holly at Great Yarmouth with Scroby Sands offshore wind farm in the distance

Eryngiums are in the Apiaceae, relatives of carrots and fennel, with umbels of flowers – all arising from one point, like the spokes of an umbrella, though there can be umbels of umbels!

Most of these plants are quite easy to grow, though all demand full sun and a well-drained soil.

The flowers of the European species are small, crowded in domed heads and surrounded by thick, long-lasting bracts that are usually silvery or blue. This structure is reminiscent of the Asteraceae, the bracts doing all the attraction, for a prolonged period as the flowers open in succession, like a daisy or sunflower where the ray florets stay looking good all the time the central, fertile florets open.

A well-coloured sea holly at Southport

Eryngium maritimum is the true sea holly and has these colourful and attractive flowers but the leaves are spiny too. The whole plant is prickly, tough and completely unbrowsable. Seeing it in its natural habitat, as with any plant, helps us understand its needs. These photos show it in two places, at Southport in the Northwest of England and at Great Yarmouth on the east coast – almost as east as you can get in England. In both cases it is growing in pure sand, in dunes. You can see that the thick roots help to bind the dunes but, if the sand blows away or is otherwise eroded, the roots are exposed. Eryngiums are one of the easiest plants to grow from root cuttings and you can see why here – if the roots are exposed and the plant snaps off the roots, it is a big advantage if the roots can sprout new plants.

Sea holly at Southport struggling against erosion of the dune

It also shows just how succulent the plants are and how they must hate wet, heavy soils. This specific habitat explains why the native sea holly is so rarely seen in gardens. Most eryngiums have leaves that are very un-holly like but this species explains the common name well.

And in case you want to know where Southport is, it is the southern and more grown up cousin of Blackpool where Strictly is taking place this weekend. If you don’t understand that, it is too complicated to explain.

,

One Comment on “Oh it does like to be beside the seaside”

  1. tonytomeo
    November 25, 2019 at 4:55 am #

    It sure is interesting to see them in that form. It makes sense. They look like something that lives on the coast.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sweetgum and Pines

gardening in the North Carolina piedmont

Ravenscourt Gardens

Learning life's lessons in the garden!

RMW: the blog

Roslyn's photography, art, cats, exploring, writing, life

An Irish Gardener

Gardening in Ireland, our own garden, gardens visited and book reviews

AltroVerde

un altro blog sul giardinaggio...

vegetablurb

four decades of organic vegetable gardening and barely a clue

The Long Garden Path

A walk round the Estate!

Botanical Journey from the South

Photographic Journals from the South

Flowery Prose

Welcome to Flowery Prose! Growing words about writing, gardening, and outdoors pursuits in Alberta, Canada.

ontheedgegardening

Gardening on the edge of a cliff

Uprooted Magnolia

I'm Leah, a freelance Photographer born and raised in Macon, GA, USA. I spent 8 years in the wild west and this is my photo journal on life, love, and the spirit of Wyoming. Welcome to Uprooted Magnolia.

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness

Garden Variety

A Gardening, Outdoor Lifestyle and Organic Food & Drink Blog

For the Love of Iris

Articles, Tips and Notes from Schreiner's Iris Gardens

One Bean Row

Words and pictures from an Irish garden by Jane Powers

Plant Heritage

We are working to conserve the nations garden plants for people to use and enjoy today and tomorrow

HERITAGE IRISES

An English experience of gardening in Ireland - and back in the UK

%d bloggers like this: