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!