Until July 2017, documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say! Meanwhile . . . I've now moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire. Click on the link below to collect the new URL. Don't forget to follow there!

Monday, 2 June 2014


Large sea beet plant in the midst of pebbles on Chesil Beach
Sea Beet  (Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima) (I think!)
The white flowers beside it are Sea Campion. (Silene uniflora)
June 1st 2014

Let me first remind you of the context.

(We began this exploration in the last post - Nothing But Stones.)

A sea of stones between sea-and sea.

Where somehow, some plants grow.

Not many. And only on the lower levels. But they do grow.

This Sea Beet plant plant in the picture above is about two feet across.

The focus of this post though is Thrift (Armeria maritima).

Thrift flowering in the foreground
Thrift - Ameria maritima. June 1st 2-14
In the foreground, Thrift. Further back - green patches where plants also grow. These in the picture are several feet across but some little islands of green are only twelve inches. Even in these small circles there are Thrift flowers in May.

For an idea of scale - the dots are people climbing to the top of the beach.

A landscape of Thrift running beside Chesil Beach with the cliffs of Portland beyond
A sea of Thrift with the cliffs of Portland beyond. May 6th 2014

In the winter months of early 2014, this part of the world was specially storm tossed. Not only did great waves come over the top of the beach but tides came up higher than usual. The road that runs beside this part of Chesil Beach had to be closed from time to time because it was flooded.

The extraordinaryness of this is hard to explain if you've never been here. And if you have . . . it is probably even harder to understand. For when you see where the sea is meant to be, it is . . . well it's terribly hard to believe that it can have come so far over its usual bounds. But come it did - up and over from one side and in on the tide from the other. So, to my mind, it's not only extraordinary that Thrift can make a mat for itself (along with other sea plants . . . and the odd dandelion that gets in on the act) and grow among pebbles, it's astonishing that it can make such an incredible display where everything has been thoroughly salt-soaked and under water.

An individual Thrift flower - pink with yellow pollen on white stamens
May 6th 2014

Here is an individual flower. For those of you who have not met Thrift in person - they look very much like chive flowers. They stand five or six inches high. Their leaves are a mat of spikes; barely distinguishable from mown or cropped grass.

The golden-brown back of a fallen Thrift flower
May 12th 2014

This incredible flowering began in late April and has continued right through May.

Now we are at the beginning of June the great expanse of colour has gone, even though there are still many blooms.

A dying Thrift flower where seeds are forming
Spent Thrift. June 1st 2014.
(Ignore the green furry thing on the left. That's something else.)

But even dying flowers are lovely. And soon there will be seeds.

Lots of Thrift flowers in the sunshine
These Thrift flowers were growing on the other side of the road - next to Portland Harbour.
The ground there is dry, hard earth rather than pebbles. May 14th 2014

Then, next year. It will all happen again. (Though 2014 has, I think, been a specially spectacular year.)


Here is the RHS page about Thrift. The description there suggests Thrift will grow almost anywhere - but . . . does it?

If you look at the top left hand side of the picture with the cliffs of Portland, you'll see a cluster of white buildings. This video clip from February shows the sea coming over the beach where they are. (At the very beginning of the clip. After that it's beer barrels and things floating around in the flood.)


Mark and Gaz said...

Lovely tribute and write up of the Thrift, such a resilient plant!

rusty duck said...

It's a beautiful sight.
Unlike the video clip which is quite terrifying!

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hi, Mark and Gaz. Extraordinarily tough! But I wonder if it isn't more particular than the RHS page suggests because I don't remember seeing people cultivating it in their gardens. Or is this because it might be confused with chives or even purple clover? What do you think?

Hello Rusty Duck. That wave is terrifying, isn't it!

Dartford Warbler said...

The field of thrift near Portland is just stunning!
Thrift has always been a favourite flower of mine. A reminder of childhood holidays and clifftop walks.

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hello Dartford Warbler. The astonishing thing is that the 'field of thrift' is only what's to see in that direction. There was more and more and more. Holidays:- thrift is a very holiday plant, isn't it? I don't know whether it figures in the Famous Five books - but that's the kind of place it belongs.

Cynthia said...

I have heard of thrift but never seen it. Very interesting. Also interesting that everything could recover and bloom after the storms of last winter and the high waters. The resilience of nature!

eileeninmd said...

Wow, very pretty scenes. I love the field of the Thrift Flowers. I have never heard of them, they look lovely. Have a happy week!

colleen said...

I remember seeing this all over Ireland and by the shore when I was there 10 years ago in May. Don't see it much here in the VA mountains.

colleen said...

PS Our blog names are twin sisters!

Kusum Sanu said...

Beautiful sight indeed!

Felicia said...

a lovely flower

Anonymous said...

Lovely plants!

colleen said...

An especially beautiful post, Lucy. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Another interesting post and wonderful pictures. It always amazes me that anything can grow in places like that. Flighty xx

Gary Phillips said...

Beautiful colours!! Boom, Bobbi and Gary.

Down by the sea said...

Thank goodness the dreadful storms has not destroyed this wonderful annual display! We haven't been over to Portland since Easter but we saw a equally beautiful carpet of sea thrift near West Bexington. Sarah x

Mark Willis said...

My acquaintance with Thrift is from my boyhood days in Cornwall, where it grows profusely on the cliffs. I love it!

amanda peters said...

Stunning place and photos, it looks like another world.. So want to see it for my self..
Amanda x

Diana Studer said...

I did plant Thrift, love those flowers. Especially the field full of lilac. But mine ... seem to have forgotten to flower. Perhaps they'll be happier when they can smell the sea in False Bay?

Anonymous said...

I have never seen thrift in such huge quantities - that "sea of thrift" view is magnificent. It even beats fields of lavender in the South of France!
All the best :)

Mo said...

Beautiful photographs!

Pat Tillett said...

Beautiful photos! I especially like the one with the cliffs in the background.
Nature finds a way. Always...

Donna said...

How stunning to see Thrift growing in its natural state......really beautiful and you get to see this gorgeous view in person.