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Buck(thorn)ing the trend

A quite inconspicuous plant for most of the year, sea buckthorn really comes into its own in the autumn when it comes into berry, and then its hard to miss, with more berries per branch than any other plant I know! But have you ever the noticed that not all sea buckthorns have berries? That is because its a dioecious plant, which means that male and female flowers appear on different plants, and only the female plants will bear berries. Sea buckthorn is something that nature reserve managers have mixed feelings about. It thrives on the coast and spreads very quickly which is bad news for sand dunes, which are very dynamic habitats, always on the move, and as such are home to a very particular array of species adapted to live in these conditions. Being invaded and scrubbed up by sea buckthorn puts a halt to this dynamism and these particular conditions and species are lost. However, if you are trying to provide cover and food for migrant birds including redwings and fieldfares, then sea buckthorn is just the ticket (or should I say thicket!). The berries are highly nutritious, contain large amounts of vitamin C and E, and their health benefits have been recognised for many years. They can be found in and health food shop, and are also now quite trendy fare in high end restaurants. They are not to everyone's taste, however. A friend went to a pricey restaurant in Edinburgh recently and was served sea buckthorn in some form or other in all three courses. Being unimpressed, she complained and got half her money back!

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