Western Isles Wildflowers
Western Isles wildflowers is a collection of information about our Hebridean wildflowers including identification hints, traditional herbal uses and general plant lore.
Gaelic name: Lus á Ghoill
Sea sandwort is generally found growing in shingle, sand or on saltmarsh, just above the strand-line. Sometimes it can be found growing in grass in arable fields in the Western isles.
Sea sandwort is a perennial plant whose roots extend down very deep. It can form large mats comprising of creeping stems with opposite pairs of very fleshy, oval leaves. The plant disappears under ground for the winter and reappears above the sand or shingle in April.
The young shoots of sea sandwort (before the plant flowers) have been used raw or cooked as a potherb. They have a sour taste (said however to be delicious) and are rich in vitamins A and C.
The leaves are sometimes fermented and used like sauerkraut. There is an Icelandic tradition of steeping the plant in sour whey and fermenting it. The resulting liquid apparently tastes similar to olive oil and is used as a drink.
Sea sandwort flowers May to August. The small greenish-white flowers are 6 8mm across and tend to shed, like tree leaves in Autumn (dioecious).
This plant is self-fertile it's flowers are have both male and female organs (hermaphrodite) and are pollinated by Insects and the wind.
The dried seed capsule of sea sandwort is round. Seeding is July to September.
Seeds have been used as a garnish or ground into a powder and included in flour. They are too fiddly to harvest to really be useful.
Other names for this wildflower are sea chickweed, ovate sandwort, ovate-leaved sea puslane, seaside sandplant, and Arenaria peploides. (Some of these names are shared by other plants).
Sea sandwort is a native plant of the Western Isles.
Photography © Suzanne Harris
Shawbost Beach - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
19th May, 2007