Scurvygrass will be well known by name, if not by sight, as we all learn about Nelson, the history of the Navy, tots of rum and the scurvy when we are at junior school, it is part of our heritage! Scurvy was associated with sailors in the 16th to 18th centuries who spent long periods at sea without enough vitamin C in their diet and so frequently perished from the condition. It was believed that eating scurvygrass was a way to avoid this as it has a high vitamin C content. Modern cases of scurvy are extremely rare.
There are three species of scurvygrass found in Britain and by far the most common, and this is true of Dorset, is Danish scurvygrass (Cochlearia danica). It is also known as early scurveygrass as it can flower from January right through until September.
It is a plant usually found around our coasts and especially on salt marshes as it has a high tolerance to salt. In recent times, though, it has become common along our main roads benefiting from the salting that the council does in winter to keep our roads free from ice and from the draft from passing high speed traffic spreading its seed along the road. It is apparently common on the central reservations of our motorways although this is perhaps not the best place to look for it!