Cochlearia officinalis subsp. scotica
A biennial or perennial herb which grows in a variety of coastal habitats, including open, stony shores, the crevices between rock and boulders near the sea, shingle spits, sand dunes and short, grazed grassland on cliff-tops and saltmarshes. Lowland.
The current disagreement over the taxonomic status of subsp. scotica has discouraged recorders from attempting to identify it, and resulted in a paucity of recent records. Wyse Jackson (1991) and Stace (1997) recognise it as a subspecies of C. officinalis, whereas D.H. Dalby suggests that the populations referred to subsp. scotica might be a mixture of environmentally dwarfed individuals of other taxa (Rich, 1991).
Scarce Atlas Account
NOTE: The account below is for the sub-species. Closely related species and sub-species may have separate accounts listed elsewhere in the Online New Atlas
Cochlearia scotica Druce
Status: taxonomically uncertain
This species is reported from a variety of northern coastal habitats. These include cliff top grasslands (especially when heavily rabbit-grazed), mature dune grasslands and the tops of shingle spits close to the sea. In Shetland it is found on peat now subject to tidal inundation. It is also found on rather open stony shores with little competition, and it often grows in soil-filled crevices in rocks near the upper tidal level. Additionally it has been recorded from the serpentine debris field on the Keen of Hamar on Unst.
Little is known of reproduction in this species, although material collected from Shetland sets seed in a Surrey garden (probably after self-pollination), and seedlings are abundant. The plant is biennial or perhaps a short-lived perennial.
The distribution map shows that most records were made before 1970, but this is almost certainly a result of botanists' loss of confidence in the existence of the species rather than any real change in status. It can be very common locally in suitable sites.
This species does not appear to be recorded from outside the British Isles. Superficially similar plants from the Norwegian coast are grouped under three subspecies of C. officinalis (Nordal & Stabbetorpe 1990).
Opinions differ greatly as to the taxonomic status of C. scotica, as summarised by Dalby (Rich 1991). It is possible that plants from cliffs and higher levels on the shore are salt-stressed forms of C. alpina, whilst those from the lower level of the Puccinellia maritima zone or below, especially on stony sea shores in the Inner and Outer Hebrides, are C. atlantica or (in the case of the Norwegian plants) other geographically restricted segregates, The consensus appears to be against recognising C. scotica as a species in its own right.
D. H. Dalby
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.