Danish scurvy grass thrives in gritted road conditions

image captionDanish scurvy grass has found new habitat on verges gritted with road salt

Salting roads in icy conditions is helping a coastal flower become the fastest spreading plant in Britain, a conservation charity expert claims.

Danish scurvy grass has moved inland along roads where salt has cleared vegetation on the verges, says Dr Trevor Dines, of the Plantlife charity.

Dr Dines, based in Bangor, Gwynedd, says its chemistry means it can deal with salt, while other plants die.

He said: "Salting the road is key to this plant spreading".

Dr Dines has helped map the changes in distribution of more than 2,400 plants in Great Britain and Ireland.

Danish scurvy grass is revealed as the plant that has moved into more areas on the map than any other in the past half-century, he said.

He said: "It has had the most dramatic changes in distribution of any wild plant in Britain. This ties in with snow and icy conditions on the roads.

"Most plants hate salt. When salt is put down on a road, you get this area called the salt burn.

"Most vegetation is burned. There are several other plants that have spread from the sea shore but Danish scurvy grass has spread the fastest.

media captionDanish scurvy grass thrives on roads that have been gritted with salt

"It's all down to to a trick within its chemistry. It can cope with the salt where other plants would perish.

"This little bit of burnt road verge becomes available to it as a place to move into and spread. It is opening up a bit of habitat."

Danish scurvy grass (Cochlearia danica), is a member of the cabbage family and and flowers from May-July.

Dr Dines said: "When en masse by the roadside, ie with billions of plants, it's pretty distinctive."

Details of the changes and an explanation of how the plant's chemistry allows it to live where others die are explained in a new Channel Four series, Wild Things, broadcast at 20:30 GMT on Monday.

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