Plants 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.