Glassworts Identification Meeting - Kent Botanical Recording Group - 06/10/19

The KBRG runs numerous field trips each year covering a massive range of wildflowers and habitats, giving those attending the chance to learn how to identify new species each year. The last field trip of the season is the Glassworts one, aiming to familiarise those attending with how to identify Kent Glassworts (Salicornia). Unfortunately, I could only commit to half the session so I missed out on some species, but here are those we found in the first part of the meeting. This day we met at Oare Marshes near Faversham to survey some nearby salt marsh. Only an hour before we got there it was raining very heavily and blowing a gale; but the rain had stopped and the wind died down to a gentle breeze with occasional blustery episodes and by lunchtime I took in some sun on a sheltered sea wall.

And we're off - along the sea wall. You can just see an indentation in the wall ahead which is an inlet and that's where we were headed. There were plenty of Bristly Oxtongue flowering here too (Helminthotheca echioides).

Below is the habitat for Glassworts in north Kent. This whole area gets submerged on a Spring high tide. Be careful in this type of terrain, as hidden under the fronds of Sea Purslane are deep muddy gullies! 
Next come some plants!
 I won't try to show you how to identify them individually as that is best left to the text books. Be cautious with your IDs though as this group of plants hybridise freely.

The first Glasswort we found was quite abundant and certainly colourful. It's usually found high up the shore near the high tide mark, Perennial Glasswort which has a woody stem.

Salicornia perennis

At the lower end of the shore was the unmistakable Long-spiked Glasswort with its very long segments. This one was rather flopped over, but I have seen them quite tall and erect in the gullies closest to the low tide mark.

Salicornia dolichostachya 

A bright yellow Glasswort was spotted, then lots more in the mid to upper end of the marsh. Yellow Glasswort.

Salicornia fragilis

Below - Lots of interest in what's been found. Our leader for the day was Lliam Rooney (@LliamRooney on Twitter), a very knowledgable botanist and fantastic photographer. See then scroll down to videos and Visit Lliam's Flickr site at

Although the  field trip was primarily to become familiar with Kent Glassworts for me and others, I took the opportunity to help out less experienced botanists too, by showing them the other saltmarsh plants commonly found in Kent. Species found and shown off included Golden Samphire, Sea Aster, Greater and Lesser Sea-spurries, Sea Purslane, Common Cord Grass and plenty more terrestrial plants on top and around the sea wall. 
I remember first learning about the different types of thistles on a field trip and I've never forgotten them since. It's much easier to learn being shown something by a botanist rather than looking at pictures in a book.

 Lliam hard at work - I seem to recall this was one of those pesky hybrids.

 Field trips are made up of a mix of male/female/young, middling and old; from brand new botanists to those who still amaze me with their wealth of botanical knowledge.

 Perhaps the most striking Glasswort late in the season is the Purple Glasswort for obvious reasons. It was also hugely abundant, colouring up the saltmarsh to a purple haze, much like the common Sea-lavender had done a couple of months previously.

Salicornia ramosissima

 Lunchtime by the sea wall.

That was it for me here as unfortunately I had committed myself to recording four nearby monads so I missed the second half of this field trip. Other species found after lunch included Common Glasswort (Salicornia europaeus) and One-flowered Glasswort (Salicornia pusilla) and several hybrids.

The monads I was to survey were near the A299 Thanet Way and a surprise find was this Beetroot! Yes, the same type as you'd buy in a shop. I regularly see Sea-beet around which is a close relative, but this is the first time I've found the cultivated Beetroot growing in the wild.. I wonder if someone threw a beetroot out of their car cayusing it to root and grow?

 Beta vulgaris subspecies vulgaris

If the leaves look familiar, it's because you find younger ones in mixed salad bags in supermarkets.

Another nice surprise was a fine stand of Bugloss, an uncommon plant, but not yet rare.

Anchusa arvensis

This looks like a pond but was actually a dyke (Kent name for a ditch), mostly dried up or overgrown, but here was some open water.

Some throws with the mini grapnel (made out of a small kitchen whisk with some fishing line attached) resulted in several aquatic plants including this Ivy - leaved pondweed. As they collapse out of water, it was difficult to get one to lay flat for a photo.

Lemna trisulca

I recorded around 100 species in each monad and only just finished as dusk set in. An enjoyable day for sure with the first part learning about Glassworts in a group, and the latter part happily recording plants solo in places not recorded in before.

Take care


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