Living Things - Plants

Here are just a few of the plants you might see when you visit Chichester Harbour. Can you work out which habitats they would live in?

Some of these are not included in the Plant Kingdom - but they are definitely not animals! Can you spot them?

Butcher's-broom (Ruscus aculeatus) 

The ‘leaves’ of this plant are actually flattened stems, another adaptation to dry conditions. Butcher’s-broom is an evergreen bush growing up to 1 metre high in shady woods. It has red berries in late summer and autumn.

Common Sea Lavender - (Limonium vulgare)

You can’t make lavender bags from this plant but you will find it growing on mud near the sea. It has pink/lilac flowers for most of the summer. Height up to 30cm.

Cord Grass (Spartina spp)

Very few plants can tolerate being covered in seawater when the tide is high, but Cord Grass can be found growing on the mud very near the water’s edge. Spartina maritima is the native species but accidental exposure to an American species has led to new species (e.g.Spartina anglica), which have been changing the way mud flats and salt marsh develop.

Hemlock Water-dropwort (Oenanthe crocata) 

This grows in damp places and ditches. It is very poisonous, has white flowers and can grow up to 1.25m tall.

Hemlock Water-dropwart

King Alfred's cakes (Daldinia concentrica)

The black knobbly balls on this tree trunk are a fungus called King Alfred’s cakes. They are about 5cm across. Like Alfred’s burnt cakes, these are inedible. You can find them all the year round, although autumn is the best time for spotting fungi. Fungi are not always classed as plants; sometimes they are put into a group of their own.

Marram Grass (Ammophila arenaria) 

The long leaves of Marram Grass are rolled along their length. This is an adaptation to dry conditions as it reduces the amount of moisture lost from the leaf. The long roots of Marram grass help it to find water deep in the sand, and bind the sand together in dunes. The scientific name Ammophila comes from the Greek ammos meaning sand and philos meaning loving.

Reeds (Phragmites australis) 

Reeds grow in mud or shallow water. The water can be fresh or salty. Reeds grow close together forming ‘beds’ with a closely packed system of roots and rhizomes. The round, hollow stems are usually about 2m high but can grow up to 4m. New stems grow each year.

Reeds by Geoff Farrell

Sea Beet (Beta vulgaris)

Salt tolerant Sea Beet grows in clumps on shingle beaches and other coastal habitats. Its leaves are dark green and leathery, and its flower spikes are also green and have no petals! It is perennial. This is an edible plant and can be cooked like spinach. It is related to beetroot, spinach and sugar beet.

Sea Lettuce 

In spite of its name, it is not good for salads! However, it can be eaten as ‘laver bread’, which is made by boiling sea lettuce for hours until it forms a sort of jelly. Sea lettuce is a green alga (or seaweed) that attaches itself to a rock with a ‘holdfast’ although in sheltered waters it can survive just floating on the sea. It is not often found on sandy shores.

Southern Marsh Orchid (Datylorhiza praetermissa)

Although this has lovely purple flowers between June and August it can be difficult to spot among the other meadow plants. Be careful not to tread on it! It grows in damp meadows and marshes. Height up to 75cm. Perennial

Water-cress (Nasturtium officinale)

Can be found all the year round growing in shallow freshwater streams and ditches. It is about 10-15 cm high. It flowers from May to October. Although it is edible and tasty, there are other very poisonous plants that grow in the same sort of places, so don’t try picking it yourself.

Watercress

Yellow Lichen (Xanthoria parietina) 

Lichens can grow in places where you might think nothing could survive, like deserts, rocks, and roof tiles as well as in cold or damp places. There are estimated to be between 13,500 and 17,000 species! They are not actually one organism, but a partnership between a fungus and green algae (or sometimes a bacterium). This common yellow lichen grows on rocky shores, or on sea walls exposed to salt spray. 

 

Plants are described by how long they grow for. 

Annual plants start from a seed; grow, flower and produce new seeds and then die all in one year. Red dead nettle, annual meadow grass, chickweed, groundsel and speedwell are annuals.

Biennial plants grow from a seed one year and produce their flowers and seed the second year and then die. Spear thistle, cow parsley, wild garlic and wild carrots are biennials.

Perennial plants grow for more than two years. Their leaves may die back in winter, but their roots or bulbs survive to grow again the next year. All the plants described above are perennial.

For more interesting facts about plants, try the plant pair’s game.

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Butchers Broom

Common Sea Lavender

Cord Grass

King Alfred's Cakes (photo by Roger Kidd)

Marram Grass

Sea Beet

Sea Lettuce

Southern Marsh Orchid

Yellow Lichen