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The conditions for plant growth improves with increases distance from the beach. The pH in these grey or mature dunes is now much reduced and is now only slightly alkaline (perhaps 7.5) or even slightly acid (6.5). There is more shelter and less salt is carried by the wind. With these better conditions the number and range of plants increases covering, in places, the entire sand surface. Less than 10% of the dunes are now visible sand.
The presence of moss highlights the fact that little sand is accumulating in this environment. Several of these species are adapted to the dry conditions by growing in rosettes. These plants leaves hug the ground creating a microclimate which helps the plant to retain moisture. Rosette plants such as dandelions, benweed, plantains and sow thistle are common in the Magilligan dunes. Plants with leafy stems can also be found. These include ladys bedstraw (see photograph),birds foot trefoil, clover and speedwell. In summer the purple flowers of wild thyme can be found. Grass-like plants are also present including fescue, Yorkshire fog and meadow grass. In some parts of the dunes orchids can be found during the summer months. The pleurocarpus mosses noted before are also present. With increased distance from the shore, sea buckthorn and burnet rose begin to appear.
A thin layer of humus is developed as plants die and decay. This provides the name for these dunes grey dunes. The moisture and the nutrients present in the humus assists in the colonisation of this part of the dune.
A greater variety of animal species are also found in this parts of the dunes, including the brown-lipped snail.
Follow the links in the diagram below to explore the dunes.
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