Taking a closer look at the sand dune grassland habitat. The dunes in June at Oxwich Bay on Gower in South Wales were splendid with flowers. The dune system shows a transition from loose sand and marram grass at its seaward edge, through stabilised dunes with established grasses and wild flowers, gradually becoming more permanent and vegetated as bracken takes over the slopes, and trees establish in hollows, until the whole is enveloped in woodland or incorporated into marshes.

Bloody Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum) was the first flower I noticed on my visit. The petals are quite a dark pink but the “bloody” in the name refers to the colour of the sepals that remain and form a long pointed beak around the developing seeds. It is a flower that is common on Gower but I had not seen it so abundant and widespread before. It is a clump-forming perennial said to be found in calcareous grassland and limestone pavements. The underlying geology in the area is limestone, so that may account for the distribution of this plant, although I thought that the sand on Gower beaches was almost exclusively derived from melting ice sheets.

3 Replies to “Dunes at Oxwich 1”

  1. Hello Jessica,
    Always enjoy looking at photographs of the coastal flora , fauna and geology, especially dunes, but must admit that I am not good at identifying many of the flowers. One of my favourite plants is the Sea Holly but never find any on the East coast from Whitby right down to Gibraltar Point! Do you think that there might be a good reason for this absence?
    Regards,
    Trevor.

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  2. Thanks, Trevor. Apparently, Sea Holly is found around the UK’s coastline but is much scarcer in Scotland and the North-east England. I cannot find out why this should be so. There is an idea in Norfolk that it was severely depleted in the past because people dug up the roots and candied them on a commercial scale. Where this happened on a large-scale the Sea Holly populations may still be recovering. It is a common plant in Norfolk but thinly spread along the coastline with some hint that it may be extending its range. The erosion of its sand dune habitat is a major threat to its survival. Although I cannot find a record of the plant recorded for the Yorkshire coast/Whitby area, it is listed for Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

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  3. Just a further piece of information about the apparent absence of Sea Holly along the coast from Whitby to Gibraltar Point and also in Scotland. I found two references about the decline of the species in its northernmost range. Seems like a number of complex interacting factors are contributing to the decline, too difficult for me to convey in a short note but, if you want to read the abstracts of the two papers, here are the references –

    [PDF] Genetic Diversity and Structure of Northern Populations of the Declining Coastal Plant Eryngium maritimum | Semantic Scholar
    Eryngium maritimum, biology of a plant at its northernmost localities | Semantic Scholar

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