Species of the Month April 2023

Danish Scurvygrass (Cochlearia danica)


This diminutive plant contains high levels of Vitamin C, making it an excellent remedy for scurvy in sailors - hence the common name (though it is not particularly Danish!). Originally a coastal plant, this species has spread throughout the UK along major roads due to its high tolerance for salt. As roads are gritted during winter, the lower verges become salty and create the perfect conditions for Danish Scurvygrass to thrive. It can be seen during spring forming long white stretches along roadsides. This interesting distribution is well shown on the new BSBI Atlas 2020 page for the species, showing that it is only missing inland in areas without major roads.

Danish Scurvygrass grows low to the ground and forms "ivy-shaped" leave, i.e. hearts with two extra corners. The lower and younger leaves can be more rounded / heart shaped. The species is part of the Brassica family, meaning it has cruciform flower with four petals forming a cross shape. The flowers vary from white to pale lilac.

There are several similar species of white flowered Brassicas which may be flowering at this time of year, however the leaf shape and salty location of Danish Scurvygrass should make it fairly easy to distinguish. If you need extra tips, Moira O'Donnell of the #WildflowerHour team has created an excellent guide to the white flowered Brassicas which you can find here.

You can find more information and images of Danish Scurvygrass on NatureSpot, Wildflower Finder and First Nature.

Danish Scurvygrass is likely to be found along all major road verges in south Wales (as well as along the coast), but we only hold 557 records at SEWBReC. You can view the 1km density map for SEWBReC here and the 10km Wales wide distribution here.

If you spot Danish Scurvygrass during April (or at any other time of year), please send us the record, ideally via SEWBReCORD or the LERC Wales App. Instructions on how to submit records are available here.