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Babingtons Orache

Also known as Scottish Orache and Glabrous Orache, this is a common sight just above the tideline on many Scottish beaches, both sand and shingle. It is a sprawling plant, growing low to the ground and sending up spikes of inconspicuous greenish flowers. Traditionally a member of the Goosefoot family (Chenopodiaceae), though modern gene-based methods of classification put it with the Amaranthaceae family, this is part of a group of herbaceous weedy-looking plants.

Male and female flowers grow on the same plant and are rather primitive. The staminate (male) flowers have a 5-lobed bud-like perianth, with 5 stamens. The pistillate (female) flowers are enclosed by 2 mealy bracts and have no perianth to speak of. The flowers change little on their way to becoming fruits. Flowers are clustered and stalk-less near the top of the spikes, but single stalked flowers can be found lower down.

The leaves are triangular, in opposite pairs on branched stems and have a mealy, fleshy appearance. Occasionally the edges of the leaves are toothed, with the lower leaves wider, and narrowing in the upper stem.  When young the plants are covered in hairs which collapse giving the plant it’s mealy, or scurfy texture.

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