Summer 2003

What flowers are out and about?

Article by Lynne Collins, English Nature

Here's some notes on a few flowers which may be found along the coast in August.

Dune Helleborine copyright Alice KimptonDune helleborine seems to have lost its name… recent botany books list it as narrow-lipped helleborine (Epipactis leptochila var dunensis). Although it lives in dune-slacks it's one of the few dune species which is also found under pine trees. It is sensitive to over and under-grazing by rabbits.

Seaside Centaury copyright Lynne CollinsSeaside centaury (Centaurium littorale) is a biennial herb confined to coastal dunes and other coastal areas. The flowers are similar but brighter than common centaury and it is distinguished by the leaves being narrower and straighter.

Lesser centaury (Centaurium pulchellum) is an annual, it likes open sandy and muddy grassy places near estuaries and sand dunes. The Sefton Coast has seen an increase in lesser centaury in recent years.

Carline thistle (Carlina vulgaris), a member of the daisy family, is found in well-grazed areas. A perennial herb, carline thistle has declined on some dunes due to acidification.

Smooth cat's ear (Hypochaeris glabra) is one the botanists get excited over. How to find it? - bum up - magnifier in hand… I'm afraid you've really got to know what you're looking for to find this one. It doesn't make it easy either. The flowers close in the afternoon!

Grass of parnassus copyright Lynne CollinsGrass of Parnassus (Parentucella palustris) is a hairless perennial herb found in the wet slacks of the dunes. Renown locally as one of the most beautiful flowers found in the Sefton Coast sand dunes. Its large white flowers are stunning in late July and early August.

Field gentian copyright Lynne CollinsField gentian (Gentianella campestris) is a biennial, occasionally annual, herb. Field gentians declined heavily before 1930's and sites are still being lost. It is very sturdy, straightlaced and delicate at the same time. It has disappeared from many sites in Cumbria and the Sefton Coast is the only other area it is found in the North West.