Sea Holly is a native to most of Europe's coastline where it is seen in dunes and upon tidal meadows together with sea kale, Lady's Bedstraw, St. John's wort, Marram grass and Marsh daisy.It is a highly ornamental plant with spiny, leathery, intensely whitish-glaucous leaves and roundish heads of pale blue flowers.The protected dune plant is considered endangered although widespread. In Denmark it is protected and red-listed, and it must not be plucked. Insects seek to it for nectar.
The Danish name Mandstro has something to do with love and trust, i.e. trusting someone. Flowers of Mandstro were put into love bouquets together with other flowers symbolizing eternal love. Another Danish name is Strandtidsel (thistle). It resembles in some way the flowering thistle, except that Sea Holly's flowers are metallic blue.
Helgenæs, Sea Holly grows along this coast
The name Eryngium comes from Greek eryngion meaning goatsbeard. The young, tender flowering shoots can be eaten like Asparagus. In Tudor times the roots were candied and known as eringoes eaten as sweetmeats and regarded as an aphrodisiac, obviously appreciated by Falstaff:
Let the sky rain potatoes,
Let it thunder to the tune of Green-sleeve,
Hail kissing-comfits and snow eringos, (Sea-Holly)
Let there come a tempest of provocation.
From Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor".
A manufactory for making candied roots of the Sea Holly was established at Colchester, by Robert Burton, an apothecary, in the seventeenth century, as they were considered both antiscorbutic, and excellent for health.
These Eryngo roots, prepared with sugar, were then called "Kissing Comfits." Lord Bacon when recommending the yolks of eggs for giving strength if taken with Malmsey, or sweet wine, says: "You shall doe well to put in some few slices of Eringium roots, and a little Ambergrice: for by this means, besides the immediate facultie of nourishment, such drinke will strengthen the back."
Plutarch writes: "They report of the Sea Holly, if one goat taketh it into her mouth, it causeth her first to stand still, and afterwards the whole flock, until such time as the shepherd takes it from her."
photo ⓒ Draget, Helgenæs 11. July 2009: grethe bachmann