A mat-forming perennial herb of the upper parts of saltmarshes and saltmarsh-sand dune transitions, especially where firm sandy or silty sediments overlie coarser grained material. Lowland.
There has been very little change in distribution since the 1962 Atlas. It has not been seen in Lincolnshire since 1967, whilst a few local losses in W. Norfolk have occurred as a result of human trampling or burial under shifting sand dunes.
Eurosiberian Southern-temperate element.
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 14
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
Atlas Change Index: 0.01
RDB Species Accounts
Limonium bellidifolium (Gouan) Dumort. (Plumbaginaceae)
Status in Britain: LOWER RISK - Near Threatened.
Status in Europe: Not threatened.
L. bellidifolium occurs in an intermediate zone between saltmarsh and sand-dune, growing on firm sandy/silty substrates. It grows best where the base is distinctly shingly, and in such sites frequently occurs in association with Frankenia laevis, the two species sometimes forming an almost complete sward. Suaeda vera is a potential competitor there, but in that habitat it seldom occurs as more than scattered plants. On sandy substrates L. bellidifolium often occurs with L. binervosum ssp. anglicum, but wind-blown sand is an ever present threat, and once above the reach of the highest tides, L. bellidifolium fails to thrive. It is able to colonise muddy ground, but after a few years is usually ousted by the coarser growth of Suaeda maritima and Salicornia species, which not only shade it out but also trap and build up the mud, making the site unsuitable.
It is a perennial, deciduous herb, usually profusely branched, and with a matted, wiry appearance. The leaves wither early, and by the time the flowers appear in July, the plant is usually leafless. Reproduction is by seed and by vegetative spread.
This species was formerly found in Cambridgeshire, where it was last seen in the nineteenth century, and Lincolnshire, where it was last seen, at Gibraltar Point, in 1967. Almost all remaining sites are in West Norfolk, from Holme-next-the-Sea to Blakeney, though it just extends into East Norfolk. It has been recorded in twenty 1 km squares since 1980. At some sites, the disposition and extent of the populations of L. bellidifolium do not remain static, but some colonies may disappear, whilst others appear and spread. Such changes occur in response to the shifting of sand, particularly during northerly gales. Sand deposited at the edge of the saltmarsh, trapped by Suaeda vera, may smother colonies of L. bellidifolium, becoming colonised instead by sand-dune plants such as Elytrigia atherica. This has occurred at several sites on the Norfolk coast, but is often compensated for by the creation of new sites for L. bellidifolium from which sand has been removed.
The main human threat comes from trampling in the more popular areas, the tendency being to choose the easiest walking, which is on the firm drier areas at the edge of the saltmarsh. The loss of the plant at Hunstanton is likely to have been from this cause. Vehicles, though few, follow the same firm track. Currently, trampling and vehicles are only minor problems on the Norfolk coast and, as almost all existing sites are within an NNR or on National Trust property, further damaging tourist developments are unlikely. However, increased storminess and sea-level rise, both possible consequences of global warming, could pose a serious threat.
L. bellidifolium occurs along the coasts of western and southern Europe, from England southwards to Spain, and eastwards to Romania, Greece and the Crimea. In southern Russia it also occurs inland on saline soils.
PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.