Our final online talk of the season this April welcomed botanist Dr Helena Crouch. Helena is Vice-County Recorder for the north part of Somerset on behalf the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland and an active member of Somerset Rare Plants Group. During “The Coastal Plants of Somerset” she discussed the plants she studies on the Somerset Coast between the estuaries of the Rivers Avon and Parrot. Some of these have amazingly made their way inland to places like Bath and Keynsham, especially in the vicinity of salt storage facilities.
Photo: Helianthemum apenninum at Brean Down
Many coastal plants have adapted in various ways to combat the challenges: Some are low growing species hugging the ground, with deep roots giving them stability from the wind and also reaching the lower water table. Available moisture can be reduced if the ground is very free draining, as in sandy soils and beaches. Coastal plants cope with the salinity by having high levels of salt in their tissues and this allows water uptake though osmosis. Cylindrical stems and leaves and hairy surfaces also help protect from drought, with some plants having plates of wax coating surfaces to stop their tissues drying out and also deflecting sunlight.
During Helena’s talk we were led on a walk along the Somerset coastline visiting the many different habitats and discovering the species that live there. Some of the plants mentioned were found in awkward outcrops of rocks proving both a physical challenge as well as a good test of Helena’s nerve. This passionate and dedicated plants-woman, however, overcame these obstacles to add to her records of the plants found on the coast of Somerset.
Photo: Armeria maritima and Birnbeck Pier