Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sea Aster

Sea aster Aster tripolium comes into flower just as most other saltmarsh plants, like sea lavender and sea pink, are past their best, and it continues to flower well into early autumn. This fine specimen was one of many flowering on the saltmarsh at Warkworth recently. It's a very variable plant, tolerant of a wide range of conditions. On the saltmarsh it's periodically inundated with sea water during spring tides and it grows in extremely saline mud. Salt-tolerant plants like this are classified as halophytes.
In other places it tolerates brackish conditions. I photographed this population of the plant on the banks of the Tyne last week, seventeen miles inland from the coast, near Newburn near Ryton Willows Local Nature Reserve. The river is still tidal at this point and here the water must still be only slightly salty, compared with the coastal conditions. The plants here are much taller, more on the scale of garden Michaelmas daisies, which may be because the plants are inundated twice a day and grow on sloping river banks, so it's more of a struggle to keep their heads above water, unlike the saltmarsh plants that grow on an almost flat surface and are only infrequently flooded during very high tides.

There has been a significant amount of research interest around the world on this species in recent years, because of its potential as an animal fodder crop that will grow on very saline soils, with the potential to return land to productivity after it has suffered salinisation through excess irrigation .

4 comments:

  1. Beautiful shots.The blooms have such a delicate colour.

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  2. Hi lotusleaf, yes, their colour scheme has always appealed to me.....

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  3. Phil,
    Saw these (I think) on the coast at Arnside and thought 'Oh, those will be sea aster'. I had no idea how I knew and it was only last night when I was rereading some of your posts that I realised it was because I had seen them here! The plants at Arnside are on salt-marsh and are only about a foot high.

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  4. Hi Mark, they're really attractive flowers, aren't they?...and very welcome at a time of year when so many other plants are coming to the end of flowering. They seem to be very popular with bees and butterflies, so I was thinking of collecting a few seeds to try in the garden. It would be interesting to see how well some of the forms from different locations perform when they're grown side-by-side in the same garden soil...

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