Plants on Orford Ness

Yellow horned poppy on the shingle on Orford Ness

Living on the coast is a challenge for any plant but the desert-like conditions of the shingle habitat present additional challenges. Plants have to adapt to survive the wind, extremes of temperature and salt.

Shingle plants

Sea pea

The sea pea grows in the annual drift line communities, those plants that tend to seed each year after being thrown up by the sea at the top of the tide. Sea pea disappears in the winter but its extensive root system, used to gather scarce water, can remain if undisturbed. Its seeds are able to survive long periods in the sea.

The rare sea pea establishing itself on Orford Ness
Sea Pea on Orford Ness
 

Sea Kale

Long fleshy roots anchor sea kale into the shingle.  Its fleshy grey-green leaves allow it to cope with drying winds and salt spray.  Large round seeds can lodge in the gaps between the larger stones on the storm ridge ready to germinate in the spring.

Sea kale on Orford Ness
Sea kale on Orford Ness

Yellow horned poppy

The yellow horned poppy is well adapted to avoid the desiccating effects of wind, sun and salt. Its fleshy leaves retain water and are crumpled to reduce the area exposed to direct sunlight and wind. Silver hairs on the leaves reflect the sunlight and slow down the wind.

Yellow horned poppies are reclaiming the Ness
Yellow horned poppies reclaiming Orford Ness

Saltmarsh plants

As their name implies, saltmarsh plants have to survive immersion in salt water. Thick skins (often using their leaves as an outer cover), fleshy stems and leaves to retain water and complex chemistry for processing salt out of water all allow these plants to survive.

Essex skipper on sea lavender Orford Ness
Essex skipper on sea lavender Orford Ness

Sea aster on Orford Ness
Sea aster on Orford Ness
Samphire, sea purslane and sea lavender on Orford Ness
Samphire sea purslane and sea lavender on Orford Ness