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eryngium maritimum, e. campestre
German: Seestrand-Mannstreu, Seemannstreu, Blaue Dünendistel
Tinct. of plant and root.
Plantae; Spermatophyta, Angiospermae - Flowering Plants; Dicotyledonae; Rosiflorae / Rosidae; Apiales; Umbelliferae / Apiaceae - Carrot / Celery Family
Allen: Cyclopoedia, V. 4. Cyclop. Drug Path., V. 4. Appendix.
Ivatts: Am. Hom., Obs., V. 10, p. 564.
Description of the substance
Habitat: Eryngium Maritimum, or Sea Holly, grows on the sandy beaches and sea shores of Britain, particularly the east coast. It can be cultivated inland, but this affects the length and thickness of its roots, making them weaker. In its natural location, the white, brittle and fleshy roots can grow up to six feet long, anchored deep in the sand banks, and within easy reach of sea water.
The roots are perennial; they resent any disturbance. The root system binds the sand on the seashore, helping to prevent erosion. Sea Holly flowers in mid to late summer and produces a blue egg shaped bloom. The colour of its body and blue flowers give it what Clarke calls a 'metallic lustre'. It has waxed leaves, which reduce the amount of respiration, and is a heat loving, drought tolerant plant.
With its prickly leaves, the Sea Holly looks more like a thistle or indeed a holly, hence its common name. In fact it belongs to the family of Umbelliferae, the group of plants now named Apiaceae.
It shows a number of xeromorphic adaptations to survive water-loss, including its spiny leaves and bracts to deter grazing animals and its thick, waxy cuticle. The root system is able to grow down a metre or more into the sand. The cuticle probably also protects the plant from the erosive effects of blown sand.
Like some other psammophytes (plants of open, sandy habitats) it is able to grow up through accreted sand, the shoot system being stimulated into renewed growth by burial.
Its spiny nature does, however, make it an unwelcome plant where it grows on popular beaches, often just where people want to sunbathe. It is vulnerable to trampling and, like other strandline species, is locally vulnerable to beach-cleaning machines. Consequently it is declining and showing local extinctions. There would appear, however, to be climatic factors also at work, since public pressure cannot be a major factor in its disappearnce from east Scotland.