Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) grows as a small tree or shrub. It is easily recognised by the narrow silvery leaves and is unmistakeable in autumn when dense clusters of bright orange berries are on display.
How to spot Sea Buckthorn
The plant is dioecious; male and female flowers grow on separate plants, so only the female plants carry the orange fruits. Flowers and consequently fruits are formed on two or three year old wood. So berries are found in between the leafy tip of the branch and increasingly further away from the trunk as the tree gets older. Though only berried on a small part of the branch the berries are held in such dense clusters, over 100 berries per 10cm that the trees are highly productive.
What about the berries?
Birds will only eat the sour berries in particularly cold winters so the berries which develop in September are usually still on the tree until March when new leaf growth starts. There is evidence that humans have been eating Sea Buckthorn fruits for thousands of years. While not commonly consumed in Britain the berries are used to make jam in Scandinavia and bottled juice in Ladakh, India. The fruits are high in vitamins A and C as well as being a source of many micronutrients. The oil contained within the fruits is increasingly being used in skin care. It is valued as a highly effective ingredient however some people can be allergic to it. If picking the berries beware the thorns which take the form of tough large spikes.
Sea Buckthorn is more common as a native plant on the east coast of Scotland and England. Because it can grow clones from suckers it often spreads to form dense thickets. In Dorset you are more likely to see it planted in gardens or managed coastal sites where it is valued for its tolerance of harsh conditions as well as its ornamental qualities.