Erodium maritimum

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaGeraniaceaeErodiumErodium maritimum


An annual of trampled or closely-grazed cliff-top grasslands, disturbed sand dunes and gull-infested sea-cliffs, and around coastal settlements on walls and pavements. Inland, it has been recorded from limestone grassland (Somerset), in heathland areas by sandy tracks and gravel workings and, rarely, as an introduction on railway ballast. Lowland.

World Distribution

Suboceanic Southern-temperate element, with a disjunct distribution.

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Erodium maritimum (L.) L'Her.

Sea stork's-bill

Status: not scarce



E. maritimum grows in a wide variety of open coastal sites where competition is reduced by drought, fire, trampling or other disturbances. Characteristic habitats include dry, rocky cliff ledges and coastal banks, short rabbit- or sheep-grazed turf, disturbed sand dunes, trampled paths and view points, burnt heath and gull-infested cliff tops. Like many ruderals, E. maritimum can take advantage of high nutrient levels and plants in such sites are much larger than those in less eutrophic localities. In trampled or closely-grazed localities E. maritimum is prostrate (and often grows with small rosette-forming species such as Leontodon saxatilis and Plantago coronopus) but in short coastal scrub its stems can be scrambling and almost erect. Inland habitats for this species include sandy tracks and disturbed grassland associated with gravel workings in Dorset and short, trampled turf over Carboniferous limestone in the Mendips; it formerly also grew inland in sand pits and other open sandy habitats on heaths. 

E. maritimum is an annual, usually germinating in late summer or autumn. Plants may flower as early as March, and usually continue flowering until they succumb to summer drought. In wet summers populations can be found with all age classes from seedlings to fruiting plants. The flowers often lack petals and are probably self-pollinating; they usually set a full complement of viable fruit. Populations vary in size depending on the amount of open habitat available and are often large in the season following a hot summer.

There is no indication that E. maritimum has declined in coastal localities in the period for which we have botanical records. In the longer timescale it has probably been favoured by human disturbance, and has doubtless spread from native habitats such as cliff ledges and gull colonies into habitats opened up by human activity.

In Europe E. maritimum is found in the western Mediterranean countries, and along the Atlantic coast from Spain and France to Britain and Ireland. It is at its northern world limit in Scotland. Outside Europe it is known only from Tenerife and Tunisia.



C. D. Preston

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 (94c)
de Bolòs O, Vigo J
1990.  Flora dels Països Catalans, II. Crucíferes-Amarantàcies.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.