Sea holly, Cardo de mar, Panicaut maritime, Mikołajek nadmorski, Stranddistel, Blauwe zeedistel (Eryngium maritimum)
The Sea holly (Eryngium maritimum) is a species of Eryngium in the plant family Apiaceae and native to most European coastlines. In some ways, it resembles a flowering thistle, in that its flower is burr-shaped, though these are metallic blue, rather than mauve. The protected dune plant grows to a height of 20 to 60 cm. Although widespread, it is considered endangered as, for instance in Germany, its occurrence has been greatly reduced throughout and has become extinct in some regions.
In Elizabethan times in England, these plants were believed to be a strong aphrodisiac. They are named in a speech by Falstaff:
"Let the sky rain potatoes;
let it thunder to the tune of Green-sleeves,
hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes [sea-holly],
let there come a tempest of provocation..." ”
—Falstaff, Act 5, scene v, "The Merry Wives of Windsor", William Shakespeare
Sea holly was nominated the 2002 County flower for the city of Liverpool.