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Danish Scurvy Grass (Cochlearia danica) is now an increasingly common site along Britain's roads as a result of salt gritting in cold weather © Flora Derbyshire via Flickr (License CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Danish Scurvy Grass (Cochlearia danica) is now an increasingly common site along Britain’s roads as a result of salt gritting in cold weather. It is visible in this photo as tiny white flowers. © Flora Derbyshire via Flickr (License CC-BY-SA 2.0)

For the past week, most of the UK has experienced freezing conditions with widespread ice and snow over the country. It has now been revealed that salting roads with grit salt in icy conditions is helping a coastal flower become one of the fastest spreading plants in Britain. Danish Scurvy Grass (Cochlearia danica) is a salt marsh Brassica that is now establishing inland along roads and motorways where salt has accumulated in the verges and central reservations.

These plants have a high tolerance for salt in comparison to most other inland plants, meaning they are able to out compete plant species less well adapted to salty conditions and colonise road sides. In addition the local wind currents created by fast moving cars has helped to quickly spread the seeds, aiding plant colonisation. Botanist Dr Trevor Dines of the Plantlife Charity has helped map the changes in distribution of more than 2,400 plants in Great Britain and Ireland. Danish Scurvy grass has shown large changes in its distribution over the last 50 years, which is thought to be directly related to snow and icy conditions on roads. Using the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) gateway it is clear that the distribution of Danish Scurvy Grass follows a pattern along some of the UK’s biggest road networks, including the M4 and M5 in Gloucestershire and Somerset, the M54 and A5 in Shropshire, and clear routes inland from ports at Felixstowe, as seen in this video.

So next time you’re stuck in traffic on the motorway see if you can spot the small white and pink flowers of Danish Scurvy Grass- a taste of the seaside from your car!


‘Danish Scurvy Grass Thrives in Gritted Road Conditions’, BBC News, 21st Jan 2013

‘NBN gateway, Danish Scurvy Grass and Google Earth’, YouTube, NBN Gateway


  1. argylesock on 24th January 2013 at 12:00 PM

    Reblogged this on Science on the Land.

  2. argylesock on 24th January 2013 at 12:08 PM

    Has anybody tried using this plant for bioremediation?

    • Charlotte Elston on 1st February 2013 at 10:45 AM

      Hi, thanks for taking an interest in this blog post. I can’t find any specific mention of this particular species being used in bioremediation but I know that other halophytic plants with a high level of salt tolerance have been used for bioremediation of salt affected lands, so there could be potential for this species to be used in a similar way.

  3. Cochlearia officinalis | Find Me A Cure on 22nd July 2014 at 7:09 AM

    […] Taken With A Pinch Of Salt- Danish Scurvy Grass Thrives Along Gritted Roads […]

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