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Mertensia maritima

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Boraginaceae (Borage)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Beaches, rocky places, saltmarshes, sea cliffs, seaside.

Pink, 5 petals
Clusters of bell-shaped, nodding pink flowers, later turning bluish-purple. The individual flowers each measure between 5 and 7mm across. The petals are concaved.
The fruit is a capsule. The seeds ripen from July to September.
Fleshy, pale oval leaves, each up to 10cm (4 inches) long. A prostrate perennial.
Other Names:
Gromwell, Oysterleaf, Sea Bluebells, Sea Bugloss, Sea Lungwort, Seaside Bluebells.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Mertensia maritima, commonly known as oysterleaf or seaside bluebells, is a species of flowering plant in the borage family. It is native to coastal areas of Europe and Asia and is typically found growing in sandy or rocky habitats, such as sea cliffs and salt marshes. It has blue, bell-shaped flowers that bloom in the spring and early summer. The plant is considered a threatened species in some areas due to loss of habitat due to coastal development.


Oysterplant, also known as Mertensia maritima, is a unique herb that grows along the coastlines of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. It is highly valued for its culinary and medicinal properties and has been used for centuries by indigenous communities.

Appearance and Growing Conditions

Oysterplant is a small, low-growing plant that typically reaches a height of 15 to 30 cm. It has thick, fleshy leaves that are greyish-green in color and covered in fine hairs. The leaves are oval in shape and can grow up to 5 cm long and 2 cm wide. Oysterplant produces clusters of small, bell-shaped blue flowers in the summer.

Oysterplant grows in sandy, rocky soils in areas with cool, moist climates. It is most commonly found along the coastlines of northern Europe, Russia, and North America. It is a hardy plant that can withstand harsh conditions, including salt spray and extreme temperatures.

Culinary Uses

Oysterplant has a unique and intense flavor that is similar to oysters, hence the name "oysterplant". The leaves, stems, and flowers of the plant are all edible and can be used in a variety of dishes. The flavor of the plant is best when it is fresh, so it is often used raw in salads or as a garnish.

One popular way to use oysterplant is to make a sauce or condiment. The leaves and stems are chopped finely and mixed with vinegar, oil, and seasonings to create a flavorful dressing for seafood dishes. The plant can also be used in soups, stews, and sauces to add a distinctive oyster flavor.

Medicinal Properties

Oysterplant has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb by indigenous communities in northern Europe and North America. It is believed to have a range of health benefits, including:

  1. Digestive health: Oysterplant is rich in fiber, which can help to promote healthy digestion and prevent constipation.

  2. Immune system support: Oysterplant is high in vitamin C, which is important for a healthy immune system.

  3. Anti-inflammatory properties: Oysterplant contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to reduce inflammation in the body and ease pain and discomfort.

  4. Respiratory health: Oysterplant has been used traditionally to treat respiratory conditions such as coughs, colds, and asthma.


Oysterplant is a unique and versatile herb that has both culinary and medicinal uses. Its intense oyster flavor makes it a popular ingredient in seafood dishes, while its range of health benefits makes it a valuable addition to any diet. If you have the opportunity to try oysterplant, be sure to take advantage of its unique flavor and potential health benefits.

Additional Information about the Oysterplant

While oysterplant may not be a common herb in many parts of the world, it is considered a delicacy in some regions where it grows. It has gained popularity in recent years among chefs and food enthusiasts who appreciate its distinctive flavor and versatility in cooking.

Apart from its culinary and medicinal uses, oysterplant is also known for its ornamental value. Its clusters of blue flowers make it a beautiful addition to gardens, especially in coastal areas.

However, oysterplant is not without its challenges. It is a slow-growing plant that can be difficult to propagate, and its natural habitat is under threat due to climate change and human activities. It is important to use sustainable harvesting practices and protect the natural habitats where oysterplant grows to ensure its survival.

In addition to its culinary and medicinal properties, oysterplant has cultural significance in some indigenous communities. In Inuit culture, oysterplant is known as "qanik" and has been traditionally used as a food and medicine. It is also considered a symbol of resilience and survival, as it is able to withstand the harsh conditions of the Arctic environment.

Oysterplant is also a source of inspiration for artists and writers. Its unique flavor and appearance have been featured in numerous cookbooks and culinary blogs, while its cultural significance has been explored in literature and art.

Oysterplant is an example of how plants can provide a multitude of benefits beyond their basic function in the ecosystem. They have the potential to enrich our lives in countless ways, from providing food and medicine to inspiring creativity and cultural expression.

As we continue to learn about the diverse range of plants that exist in the world, we can develop a deeper appreciation for the natural world and the interconnectedness of all living things. By valuing and protecting the biodiversity of our planet, we can ensure a healthy and sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.

Research has shown that oysterplant contains a range of compounds that have potential health benefits. For example, studies have found that oysterplant is rich in antioxidants, which help to protect the body against the harmful effects of free radicals. These antioxidants may also have anti-cancer properties, although more research is needed to confirm this.

Oysterplant is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health and may help to reduce inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are typically found in fish, so oysterplant is a valuable source of this nutrient for those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Furthermore, oysterplant has been traditionally used to treat a range of ailments, including rheumatism, urinary tract infections, and skin conditions. While more research is needed to confirm these uses, oysterplant has shown promise as a natural remedy for various health issues.

It is worth noting that like with any herb or supplement, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using oysterplant for medicinal purposes. Some people may be allergic to the plant, and it may interact with certain medications or medical conditions.

Overall, oysterplant is a unique and valuable herb that has a range of culinary, cultural, and medicinal uses. As we continue to explore the potential of this plant and other natural remedies, we can develop a deeper understanding of the complex relationships between humans and the natural world.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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