Crambe maritima

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaCruciferaeCrambeCrambe maritima


A long-lived perennial herb of shingle and boulder beaches, very occasionally found on dunes (but only where these overlay shingle) and on cliffs. It reproduces by seed and from detached pieces of root. Lowland.



World Distribution

European Temperate element.

© P. Shannon

Broad Habitats

Supralittoral sediment (strandlines, shingle, coastal dunes)

Light (Ellenberg): 9

Moisture (Ellenberg): 5

Reaction (Ellenberg): 8

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 7


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 3

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4.8

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 15.5

Annual Precipitation (mm): 938

Life form information

Height (cm): 62

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary


Comment on Life Form

basically hemicryptophyte; root sprouts only when disturbed



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 251

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 46

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 11

Atlas Change Index: 0.29

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Crambe maritima L.


Status: not scarce



This maritime plant is found on shingle beaches, or on dunes but only where these rest on a shingle beach (Salisbury 1952). It is also occasionally found on cliffs as at Sidmouth and Burton Bradstock. It often grows in pure stands and its only associates are those of a shore-line vegetation, such as Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima, Glaucium flavum, Rumex crispus and Silene uniflora with very occasional occurrences of the scarce species Lathyrus japonicus and Mertensia maritima

C. maritima is a perennial, long-lived herb, growing into very large clumps. It sets seed readily, other than in the north of its range (Scott & Randall 1976) and these few heavy but buoyant seeds are dispersed by the sea. Some humus, in the form of buried seaweed, and a fine substrate seem to be necessary for the germination of the seed. Vegetative reproduction may occur from broken portions of roots, particularly after heavy storms. This was very apparent after the 1990 storms on Chesil Beach where many plants were uncovered and destroyed. By 1992 there were more colonies than before.

In some areas of southern England this species seems to be increasing. It may be that it was formerly collected for sea-kale: it is much more common now on Chesil Beach than in Good's day, when he remarked that it was much gathered for culinary use (Good 1948). In other areas it has undoubtedly declined, notably in South Wales. Its decline may be because of human trampling and possibly coastal development and sea defence works.

It occurs in northern France and around the Baltic, with outlying populations in northern Spain and Ireland. There is also a population around the Black Sea.



D. A. Pearman & A. McG. Stirling

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.

Atlas text references

Atlas (36c)
Curtis TGF, McGough HN
1988.  The Irish Red Data Book. 1. Vascular Plants.
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Jalas & Suominen (1996)
Meusel H, Jäger E, Weinert E
1965.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols.
Scott GAM, Randall RE
1976.  Biological Flora of the British Isles. No. 139. Crambe maritima L. Journal of Ecology. 64:1077-1091.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.