20th December 2020 – the blooming East Sussex coast

I really do love trees but seeing that the forecast for Thursday was spectacularly good on the coast, the thought of seeing some colour was more than I could resist.

Following the advice from a friendly Sussex botanist I set off east from Brighton pier and tracked the top of the chalk cliffs as far as Rottingdean. Down below, the surf crashed into the sea wall, spumes of spray twisting high into the air. It was one of those strange days when you’re constantly having to take off and put on clothes as the sun comes out and goes in.

At the Brighton end of the walk, the evergreen Japanese Spindle covering the historic green wall was spectacular. Rather like the European version, vivid orange seeds burst from bubblegum pink fruit. Other introduced species I found in flower were Hoary Stock, with bright purple flowers and downy leaves, and Seaside Fleabane, a yellow and pink daisy.

Other coastal specialists were Sea Pearlwort and Rock Samphire and it was good to find familiar Oxford Ragwort, Red Valerian, Dovesfoot Cranesbill and Shepherd’s Purse still in in flower too.

From top left to right: Oxford Ragwort, Sea Pearlwort, Rock Samphire, Red Valerian, Dovesfoot Geranium, Shepherds Purse, Japanese Spindly, Hoary Stock, Seaside Fleabane

While I still have a load of photos of unidentified pavement weeds not in flower, this Sun Spurge enjoying the December warmth is clearly delineated from Petty Spurge by the toothed leaves. That’s a new one for me.

One plant I was looking out for on the local botanist’s advice was Rottingdean Sea-lavender which, while not in flower, had very distinctive seedheads still showing on leaf cushions.

Rashly I decided to return to Brighton along the undercliff walk, dodging the spray which hit the path at intervals. A Rock Pipit picked through the seaweed on the path. Unfazed by my proximity and with a great deal more courage, it foraged on the pebbles in the brief intervals between waves.

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