Sea-holly

©Derek Moore

Sea-holly

Scientific name: Eryngium maritimum
The spiky, silvery leaves of Sea-holly give this plants its common name. Look for its beautiful, thistle-like, blue blooms on coastlines and sand dunes in summer.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 60cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to December

About

Although more closely related to the carrot than true Holly, the spiky, grey leaves of Sea-holly ensure that this plant lives up to its name. These leaves are covered with a waxy cuticle to help the plant retain water in the arid conditions in which it thrives. Found on coastlines and sand dunes, Sea-holly blooms between July and September, producing round, teasel-like heads of striking blue flowers.

How to identify

The rounded, blue flower heads of Sea-holly make it look a bit like a thistle when it is in bloom. It has silvery-blue leaves with many prickly spikes on their edges.

Distribution

Found around the UK's coastline, but much scarcer in Scotland and North East England.

Did you know?

In Elizabethan times, the flowers of Sea-holly were used as an aphrodisiac and were even mentioned by Shakespeare as such. The deep roots were also once sold as sweets, having been pulped and sugared first.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many coastal nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.