This time of year sees abundant flowering of Sea Pinks (Armeria maritima) on the salt-marshes at Loch Gruinart and other areas and beaches across Islay. It’s one of the most pretty flowering plants on the island and their bloom usually coincides with the lovely late spring and early summer days.
Sea Pink Bloom
Sea Pinks are known by several common names, including “thrift” and “sea thrift”. They are compact perennial plants measuring 5 to 25cm which grow in low clumps sending up long stems from which globes of bright pink flowers blossom. In some cases purple, white or red flowers also occur.
This species is a characteristic and abundant plant of maritime rock and cliff habitats and is common on salt marshes where it is tolerant of grazing by stock. It can occur inland and can be found on mountain rocks and cliffs including on the summit of Bheinn Bheigher the highest peak on Islay.
Sea Pink is a tufted perennial and flowers from April to October. The main period is between June and July when the cushion of single veined linear leaves gives rise to many flowers held on leafless downy stalks in compact roundish heads. It grows in a compact spongy cushions which have evolved to protect the ground under the plant by preventing soil erosion thus averting plant dehydration via its roots.
Best places to find Sea Pinks
There are some places on Islay where you can find Sea Pinks in particularly stunning locations. From memory I know that they grow abundant on the pier at Ardbeg Distillery, on the rocks at Sanaigmore Bay and the head of Kilchoman Beach, the north side. Another good spot is around Kilnaughton Beach, the Singing Sands and near the Carraig Fhada lighthouse. And as mentioned above, the head of Loch Gruinart can sometimes seem blanketed by Sea Pinks.