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The Seashore

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Cochlearia officinalis

Cochlearia officinalis

This species can look very different depending on where it lives. On the salt marshes of West Wales it reaches a maximum of about 20 cm high. In the hedgerows it can be much bigger than that (up to 50 cm or so). It exhibits that very common characteristic of salt marsh plants, succulence. Retaining a lot of water in your tissues helps dilute the large amount of salt you absorb in such conditions. The common name is scurvy grass (although it's not a grass it's a member of the Cruciferae (cabbage family)). This we are informed is because sailors used to eat it to recover from scurvy. Scurvy is a nasty ailment caused by lack of vitamin C. You contract it by tossing at sea for several weeks without any fresh fruit or vegetables. Having informed you of this delightful legend, I have to admit that I've never found any data on vitamin C concentrations in Cochlearia and I've never met a sailor on the salt marsh.


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