If you’ve been looking out for wild flowers this year, you may have noticed there are quite different range of plants on the seafront between the Sailing club, and the arm at Newhaven. This area of Tidemills is a very special habitat for plants, which have to be able to cope with the salt air, and shingle, which is disrupted by storms and the twice-yearly beach restoration works by the Environment Agency.
Many of the plants that thrive are compact, hunkered down close to the ground, with tough fleshy leaves. The fleshiness of salt marsh plants helps them to adapt to salt spray, enabling them to store water within the leaves and stems.
Yellow horned poppy is one of the most common and prettiest flowers on the beach. Sea kale is often the other most noticeable plant, with its sprays of honey scented flowers, which are incredibly pretty close up.
This year was a good one for the stunning little Biting Stonecrop, which thrives on infertile soils just inland of beaches, you may also see English stonecrop.
Also common are mayweed and plantain. There are several sorts of mayweed, which has pretty little daisy shaped flowers and feathery leaves, including Scented, Scentless and Sea Mayweed. Worth brushing your fingers through it and having a sniff, to see if you can confirm Scented Mayweed. Otherwise it can be identified using a key (such as Wild Flower key by Francis Rose) looking at the shape and size of the seedhead, and the fleshiness of the leaves. You may also find Sea Plantain near the sea, but this one is probably Buck’s Horn Plantain, which has horn shaped long leaves to go with the long thin flower spikes.
Spotted occasionally is this delicate little purple flower Bittersweet, a poisonous plant related to tomatoes and potatoes also known as Woody Nightshade.
A much more showy and pushy flower is Everlasting Sweet pea, which scrambles over shrubs in Tidemills behind the banks. This beautiful wild pea is a favourite caterpillar food of the exotic migrant, the Long Tailed Blue butterfly, which has been spotted before on Castle Hill, and I’m still hoping to spot one in Seaford!
If you have been walking round Tidemills recently, you will have noticed there is all sorts of interesting activity going on including scaffolding construction, ready for the Heritage Celebration week, https://tidemillsproject.uk/ that starts on Thursday.
The area has a fascinating history, and I for one am thoroughly looking forward to watching the mill come back to life this week, helped by tour guides, artists, musicians, and installations with tours and all sorts of other events going on.
If you are going along, don’t forget to look out for some of coastal plants too!