Just now, in Bulverhythe, East Sussex, the pungent aroma of sea kale (Crambe maritima) wafts strongly and sweetly over each passer-by on this secluded beach.
As I walk through this wildlife haven, the aroma draws my attention to the clumps of flowers dotted around the beach, which remind me (for some reason) of balls of tumbleweed in a spaghetti western desert.
Maybe one day we’ll be able to reproduce smells online. But for now we’ll have to suffice with these words and pictures. Which is fine, because there’s so much to love visually about these plants…..
Not only their effervescent yellow-white florets – the source of that sweet aroma…
But also the way rain drops gather into silvery globules like pearls on their succulent leaves – providing watering holes for little creatures….
And then there’s the striking purple stems….
Sea kale is a popular plant not only with human foragers, but also with tinier diners. Soon, as in previous years, we’ll no doubt see Large White butterfly caterpillars on these nourishing plants.
At the beginning of May, however, before the flowers had unfurled, I was overjoyed to find a more special, less commonly seen larva on the sea kale at Bulverhythe – this very handsome Garden Tiger Moth caterpillar (also known as a Woolly Bear):
Thank you, sea kale, for giving so much to this area, both nutritionally and aesthetically. And thank you to the Ultimate Source who feeds the birds (and insects) and clothes the fields (and beaches).*
I’ve also written a book, Coming Home for Good (available on Amazon). Autobiographical, it’s more about homelessness than nature, but do take a look if you think it may be of interest. You never know!
*Jesus, in Matthew 6