Sea Delicatessen Grow Along Highways

Mathilde Nakken
November 5th 2016

With winter just around the corner, salt trucks are getting ready to hit the road spreading tons of salt. Ice free asphalt is necessary to drive safely and keep transports running. However, often the salt is scattered also on the soil surrounding the roads, harming the local vegetation. Though there is an unexpected side effect: delicious salt-tolerant plants from the coast are now growing alongside the highway.

Vegetation usually don't grow in salty soil, but through evolution the plants living alongside the coastline adapted to the harsh conditions. A positive effect of this evolutionary change is the salty taste, that for instance you can find in sea asparagus or sea asters. Due to the side roads salinization these plants have extended their habitat to non-marine environments.

A great example of a plant that extended his habitat due to cold winters is the Danish scurvy grass. In the Netherlands before the seventies, when spreading salt on the road was not common, you could only find it along the Dutch seasides. Now if you look at a distribution map of Danish scurvy grass you will see streaks of it heading inland which closely corresponds to the trunk road network. Danish scurvy grass has moved inland along roads where salt has cleared vegetation on the verges. As soon as we will stop spreading salt, the plant will disappear. Unfortunately the Danish scurvy grass is not in our diet anymore. It used to be, because it is full of vitamine C. So, salty polluted lanes might be our next crop fields, with the taste of sea.

map

Sources: Koken met van Boven, Vroege Vogels.
Images: Wild Harvest, Alex Hyde, Tuxx, Flora van Nederland

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