A few days ago Sally and I walked up to our local shop in search of food! We found this plant growing on the pavement by the bus stop in Chalk. We had passed it several times before and wondered what it was. But on this occasion Sally made an effort to identify it and get a photograph. It is Danish scurvy grass Cochlearia danica. It is neither Danish nor a grass but apparently it contains lots of Vitamin C, so if you chew it, you will not get scurvy – good to know! Danish scurvy grass grows on the edge of saltmarshes, shingle beaches, etc by the edge of the sea.
In a flight of fancy I started to imagine that where I was standing, by the bus stop, was actually a salt marsh. I could see Golden Samphire and Sea Aster growing amongst lots of Sea Purslane. Redshanks were probing for food at the edges of the runnels and pools not far from where I was standing, and I could just make out dunlin and curlew feeding on the edge of the retreating tide. Well, these are strange times and we have to keep ourselves amused.
On another visit to the shop, and only a few meters from our house, we came across a screaming black-headed gull diving down on to the road. It was trying to build up the courage to land and pick up a half slice of bread. In normal times, of course, the gull would have been flattened by the passing traffic but there are far fewer cars now (I noticed that it was keeping an eye open for the skip lorries that still thunder through). After a few attempts the gull grabbed the bread and three gulps later it (the bread) was gone. One happy black-headed gull. One of my birding treats is to go to Leysdown, on Sheppey, and throw slices of Mothers Pride at the gulls (OK it does not have to be Leysdown). Sometimes Sally gets a good photograph.
Just to add to these surreal moments we are now getting Mediterranean gulls flying and calling overhead. Julie has noticed them over Riverview Park and Irene has heard them passing over Northfleet. But perhaps none of this is really a flight of fancy. We are not far from the river. If someone knocked a hole in the seawall opposite our house, the road and Chalk would be on the edge of the saltmarsh with the next high tide. As it used to be!
In reality Danish scurvy grass has spread out from natural “salty” habitats. It now grows alongside major roads (and some minor roads) where salt is used in winter to prevent ice patches. The map of the plant’s distribution in the Atlas of the Kent Flora beautifully shows the motorway network in Kent. Danish scurvy grass is salt tolerant.
Thanks to Sally for the photographs