Lindisfarne IPA

Location: Off the coast of the extreme north east corner of England. Lindisfarne is linked to the mainland by a 3 mile long causeway covered by the sea at high tide.

Grid Reference: NU 125 421


Lindisfarne IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK

The key features of this IPA are:

  • One of the UK’s most important populations of Lindisfarne Helleborine
  • Lindisfarne is a tidal island off the north-east coast of England, only accessible from the mainland at low tide by means of a causeway.

    Also known as Holy Island, it was an important centre of early Christianity, and its priory, now ruined, was the home of St Cuthbert. Another of the island's most distinctive features, towering above it on a rocky crag, is Lindisfarne Castle. Its tidal mudflats, saltmarshes and sand dunes combine to create an ideal environment for plants, particularly vascular plants.

    Plants you could see

    Brought ashore by water and wind, the sand of the dunes is gradually colonised and stabilised by marram grass. Once stable, the dunes support many other plants. Early forget-me-nots are among those that hug the ground and need little water. In the dune 'slacks' (the damper hollows) rabbits perform a useful function in keeping the creeping willow well grazed. This allows many rarer plants to establish, including the rare dune helleborine, coralroot orchid, round-leaved wintergreen, curved sedge, seaside centaury and tufted centaury. A total of 11 species of orchid, among them the Lindisfarne helleborine, which is found only on the island, occur here.

    In early summer, the purple northern marsh orchid flourishes along with its pinker relation, the early marsh orchid and in July marsh helleborines flower by the thousand. Pirr-pirri burr is a non-native plant which has colonised large areas of the duneland. It can be a problem as the burrs cling to clothing and fur, but care should be taken not to spread it to other sites.

    Elsewhere on the island, areas of ‘whin’ grassland with thin, drought-prone soil have an unusual flora including common rock-rose, meadow saxifrage, crested hairgrass and field garlic.

    Around the shallow freshwater lake called the Lough, which was perhaps dug out by monks to provide a water supply and for fish, the vegetation includes reedmace, reeds, yellow iris and bogbean. On the rocky base of the castle, look out for sea campion, biting stonecrop and thrift amongst the red valerian and wallflowers.

    Common cord-grass has colonised large areas of intertidal mud and lower saltmarsh, but the upper marsh is dominated by common saltmarsh-grass and thrift. The intertidal areas support extensive beds of narrow-leaved and dwarf eelgrass and algae.

    Image: Lindisfarne © Leif Bersweden/Plantlife