Thames Estuary, Essex and Suffolk Coast IPA

Location: Coast and estuaries of Suffolk, Essex and northern Kent and Thames estuary (approximately until the London City Airport).

Grid Reference: TM 175 164


Thames Estuary, Essex & Suffolk Coast IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

Key features:

  • The species richness of vascular plants in Coastal shingle and littoral sediment habitats.

The IPA covers the coasts of Suffolk, Essex, north Kent and the Thames estuary as far as east London and has been identified for the species richness of vascular plants in its coastal shingle and littoral sediment habitats. It also includes numerous estuaries, the most important being that of the River Thames. Although much of the greater Thames estuary is industrial or urban, it also contains important habitats like grazing marshes, reedbeds, ditches, pools, saline lagoons, intertidal sand and mudflats, saltmarshes, coastal dunes and shingle, shell and sandbanks.

Plants you could see

The variety of coastal and estuarine habitats which lie within the IPA provide a home to a rich assortment of coastal and wetland plants. The saltmarshes support characteristic vegetation dominated by the saltmarsh grasses, glassworts, sea aster, sea lavenders and sea purslane, with nationally scarce plants such as golden samphire and tufted salt-marsh grass. The dykes and fleets which are an integral part of the grazing marsh have a varying degree of salinity and consequently support an interesting range of plants. Those nearest the sea tend to be the most brackish, and generally have sea club-rush, common reed and fennel pondweed as the most abundant species. In the freshwater dykes further inland there is a greater variety of species and plants such as branched bur-reed and reed-maces may become dominant. The estuaries and mudflats have beds of eelgrass and on the coastal shingle areas sea pea, sand catchfly, shrubby seablite, suffocated clover and yellow vetch may be found.

Springtime: colt's-foot, cuckooflower, dog's mercury, marsh-marigold

Summer: sea lavender, sea aster, sea pea, bulrush, marsh mallow, yellow horned-poppy

Autumn and winter: lichens, mosses, gorse

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