Explore Braunton - The Most Biodiverse Parish in England

Botanical Bounty

The Burrows are internationally famous for their plant and animal life, which has been fascinating scientists and naturalists since the 17th century.


Flower rich turf near Flagpole DuneNearly 500 species of wildflower have been recorded here, helping to make Braunton the most biodiverse parish in England. So much can be found, from common species such as yellow iris to rare species such as sea stock, sand toadflax and water germander – the latter being so rare that it is only found at one other site in England. The carpets of flowers encourage butterflies and 33 species of these beautiful creatures have been found here.

Marram Grass

Marram grassOf course some of the plants have, over time, helped to form the Burrows and one example is the marram grass, which is known as a dune pioneer. It traps windblown sand to create what is known as an ‘embryo dune’, which grows and stabilises with the long marram grass roots to become the rolling the dunes that are so familiar here.

In 1907, C Harper wrote: 

“The winds have blown the immense accumulation of shifting sand into fantastic hummocks and weird hollows... and in some sheltered hollows where the wind comes with less scouring insistence, there are nurseries of pretty wild flowers, which, although the unskilled explorer knows it not, are botanical treasures”.

Rich Flora

Bird's-foot trefoilThe extensively rich flora may be attributed to many factors – the wide range of habitat conditions, the favourable climate, the considerable age of the dune system, the fluctuating water table and the chemical nature of the sand itself.  The dunes sit on a fresh water table, which drains both westward towards the sea and eastward towards the Marshes.

Habitat Types

A dune slack with pondIts fluctuating level means that several habitat types are created on the dunes, with a typical cross section ranging from the beach, through embryo dunes and foredunes onto series of slacks (wet lower-lying areas between dunes) and large dunes before reaching fixed dunes, grassland, scrub and eventually scrubby woodland. 

It must be mentioned that gathering wild flowers is strictly prohibited under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. If you wish to record the beautiful specimens you find, please take a photograph or make a sketch.

explore braunton, the most biodiverse parish in england - a north devon aonb project