Yes I know “Duckling in samphire” sounds like something you might get in a posh restaurant, but no, it is something you might see near Battery Point.
At this time of year both mallard ducklings and samphire are in abundance here. Many of the ducklings keep to the relative safety of the man-made lake just the other side of the sea wall but some of the seemingly more adventurous downy bundles can be seen trudging across the mud and venturing out for their first taste of salt water swimming.
These three were out wave riding with Mum as the sea lapped the edge of the marsh and washed across beds of samphire. The bright green shoots of the samphire, the asparagus of the sea, poke their heads through the thick mud at the edge of the marsh and twice a day are caressed, or more often than not buffeted, by the incoming tide.
Marsh samphire (Salicornia europaea) is almost cactus like in appearance and when young is a wonderful fresh green. In centuries past it was gathered and burnt and its soda rich ashes used to make soap and glass hence its other name of Common Glasswort.
It’s summer at Battery Point salt marsh and one of the prettiest flowers on the marsh the sea lavender (limonium vulgare) is in flower.
It is well established here unlike at the nearby Portbury Wharf where only once have I found any trace. It was last winter when the surrounding flora had died down and far out in the middle of the marsh I stumbled across several plants with dried out seed heads still standing proud.
Indeed so rare is this plant at Portbury Wharf that I have not managed to find them since. You would think it would be easy to see their lavender flowers at this time of year but oh no they remain tantalisingly hidden . . . perhaps buried beneath drifts of sea grass!
The five-petalled flowers vary in colour from a violet with a dark pink central rib to almost white. Also known as Marsh Rosemary this plant is neither related to lavender or rosemary but to Statice.
The flower bracts are so small that to see any detail I had to enlarge my photos quite considerably – the right-hand pencil sketch shows the actual size of a flower bract. In contrast they have quite large and wonderfully curvaceous leaves, sensuous even, which sing out in vivid lime greens and yellows when sunlit from behind and can turn to splendid reds and oranges in the autumn if conditions are right.
The salt marsh is so rich in plant life that it is hard to know where to start especially at this time of year when everything is flourishing.
In May the raspberry ripple buds of sea thrift (above and below) are plentiful . . . Continue reading
When the whimbrels arrive on passage from Africa to their northern breeding grounds and the Scurvy Grass bursts into flower it is a sure sign that spring has arrived on the marsh. Continue reading