Sea-lavenders and allies

Common Thrift Matted Sea-lavender Common Sea-lavender Creeping Leadwort

What are they?

The plants on this page are members of the Plumbaginaceae, the leadwort family, which in our region consists of a small number of garden escapes and of native saltmarsh plants. The family is a rather variable one, with most plants having flowers with five petals, sometimes fused into an elongate, tubular base and typically arranged in tightly clustered or openly branched heads.

Where are they found?

Our native species are plants of saltmarshes, while cultivated members of the family may occasionally be found on rough ground, waste places or spreading from nearby gardens.

Identification

A number of the species can be readily identified from the photos here, but the sea-lavenders require a little more attention to the details of the flower spikes and their bracts, as well as the leaves.



Common Sea-lavender      Limonium vulgare

Common on saltmarshes in tidal estuaries, often forming extensive colonies and spectacular when flowering en masse. Flowers July to August. Our only native species with leaves that have branching (pinnate) veins. Flowers carried in tight spikes, 1-2cm long and with more than four spikelets per centimetre of flowering branch.
Common Sea-lavender Common Sea-lavender Common Sea-lavender Common Sea-lavender
Habit
Flowers
Leaves
Leaf
Common Sea-lavender Common Sea-lavender
Leaf tip
Seed capsules


Matted Sea-lavender      Limonium bellidifolium

Rare, with the entire UK population confined to firmer, sandier places at the higher edge of saltmarsh on the North Norfolk coast. Flowers June to August. Leaves with parallel (not branched) veins. Flowering stems many-branched, with the shorter, lower branches not bearing flowers. Leaves withered by the time of flowering. A low-growing, mat-forming and very twiggy-looking species.
Matted Sea-lavender Matted Sea-lavender Matted Sea-lavender Matted Sea-lavender
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Flowers
Matted Sea-lavender
Flower stem with seed capsules


Rock Sea-lavender      Limonium binervosum

Rare in Suffolk but quite frequent in North Norfolk, from Cley-next-the-sea westward to The Wash. Typically confined to firmer, sandier places at the higher edge of saltmarsh. Flowers July to August. Leaves with parallel (not branched) veins. Flowering stems relatively small with flowers densely packed. Leaves not withered by the time of flowering.
Rock Sea-lavender Rock Sea-lavender Rock Sea-lavender Rock Sea-lavender
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Flowers
Rock Sea-lavender Rock Sea-lavender Rock Sea-lavender Rock Sea-lavender
Flower spike
Flower bracts
Leaves
Leaf veins


Common Thrift      Armeria maritima

(Sea Pink) Common in coastal saltmarsh habitats and occasionally on coastal cliffs. Also grown as a garden plant and occasionally found escaping from cultivation. Flowers May to October. Forms a tight, low mound of grass-like leaves, with 'drumstick' flowerheads.
Common Thrift Common Thrift Common Thrift
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Common Thrift Common Thrift Common Thrift
Flower
Flower bracts
Leaves


Creeping Leadwort      Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Introduced from China as a garden ornamental and once recorded in Suffolk as an escape from cultivation. Flowers June to October. A low-growing, herbaceous perennial that spreads to form creeping carpets.
Creeping Leadwort Creeping Leadwort Creeping Leadwort Creeping Leadwort
Habit
Flowers
Flower
Leaf