Sea aster - Tripolium pannonicum


Foraging and identification of sea aster (Tripolium pannonicum)

Edible plant - novice Season - summer to autumn Common names Sea aster, seashore aster, blue chamomile


Scientific name meaning: Aster is a Greek word meaning star. Pannonicum translates from Greek to from Pannonia, which was a province of the Roman Empire

Habitat

Found in estuaries, mudflats, salt marshes, and near brackish water all around the UK

Overall structure

A tall, leggy plant reaching up to 1m in height. Often grows in large patches.

Leaves

Bright green in colour, the leaves are long and lance-shaped. They are fleshy and hairless.

Stem

Smooth and bright green, becoming woody with age

Flower

As sea aster is a member of the daisy family, it has a composite flower. The centre (disc flowers) is yellow centre and surrounded by long thin blue-lilac "petals" (ray flowers).

Seeds

When the seeds are mature a tuft of hair called a pappus forms on them. When clustered together, this gives them a fluffy appearance

Possible lookalikes

Before either is in flower, sea aster could be confused with the thinner-fleshed sea lavender (Limonium spp). The latter is inedible and has an unpleasant taste, so in coastal areas only this could be used to differentiate it from the salty and pleasant sea aster. When in flower, sea lavender's flowers


Use as a food The leaves are the only part worthwhile eating from sea aster, so harvesting can be done very sustainably. They are, unsurprisingly, salty, but also have some sweetness. They can be eaten raw (see hazards), pickled or cooked. ​ Hazards When collecting from shorelines, be aware of any pollution such as sewage outlets. Also, most of the UK coastline is designated SSSI, so ensure you are allowed or have permission to forage.


Use in herbal medicine and medicine Has historical use in wound treatment. If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner Other uses None known ​ Importance to other species As a late flowering plant, this provides and important source of nectar, especially for the late flying red admiral and painted lady butterflies.


Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!