Earlier in the summer we were down in Plymouth and had a day out on the Cornish side of the estuary. These are beaches and villages I know well, since I grew up in Plymouth and we visited them often. They are also villages where part of my mother’s family lived for hundreds of years up to the mid-nineteenth century. However, though I might be familiar with the place, a closer look revealed quite a few organisms that were completely new to me, most of them really common.
Starting off on the beach at Cawsand, I’d been reading Oliver Gilbert’s book on Lichens, and so was keen to get a better sense of the zonation of these organisms on the sea shore. Broadly speaking the orange Caloplaca and Lecanora were a bit higher up, and some dark Verrucaria species were a bit lower down, though still above the water for a good portion of the tide.
At this point I got a bit distracted as some large gelatinous lumps were washed in, which turned out to be remnants of Barrel Jellyfish (Rhizostoma pulmo).
That was shortly followed by a rather wonderful Blue Jellyfish (Cyanea lamarckii).
A quick look in the rock pools then provided me with a few seaweeds, which I took home and spent some time trying to work out what they were, with some help from the marine community on iSpot.
We then wandered over to Kingsand, the neighbouring, adjacent village, though I was stopped in my tracks by the rather wonderful Echium growing in someone’s garden. I saw a couple of the endemic Canarian Echiums when I was in Lanzarote earlier in the year, but I wasn’t expecting to see one here!
Picking our way along the rocky shore at Kingsand we found some Long-bracted Sedge (Carex extensa).
On the edge of the beach where the sea never reaches, the trees contained a good collection of Ramalina fastigiata.
The plants here included Rock Sea-Spurrey (Spergularia rupicola), the pink flowers of which are 8-10mm and the plant covered in glandular hairs. It has a very distinctive western distribution.
And then yet another Echium, this time E. pininana, an endemic of La Palma. It was still quite small and hadn’t yet grown to its potential full height of 3.5m. I sent this record to Ian Bennallick, the county recorder, who told me that this plant was first recorded as self-sown in Cornwall in 1977, but in the last 15 years has been found in 113 1km squares, and appears to be spreading along the Cornish coast. My record turned out to be the first for SX45.
So, quite an interestingly varied day out at the beach with the family, with lots of things I don’t see in Sussex.
 Gilbert, Oliver. Lichens. London: Harper Collins, 2000. The New Naturalist.