Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Metal Lover Immortalised in Brass

Thrift, Armeria maritima

Thrift or Sea Pink (Armeria maritima) is a common perennial of cliffs, salt marshes and sandy places as well as inland mountains where its pompoms of pink to purple flowers emerge from April to August. Taxonomically it is a difficult species to put a pin in. Variation in character from one site to another can often be mistaken for seperate taxa (Lauranson et al., 1995 Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 23 pp. 319-329), making it quite a polymorphic species. It shows quite a high tolerance for heavy metal rich soils (Olko et al., 2008 Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 69 pp. 209–218) and is recognised as an indicator of copper mineralization. This tolerance of copper rich soils is caused by a combination of morphological and biochemical mechanisms (Neumann et al., 1995 Journal of Plant Physiology 149 pp. 704–717).

1942 Three Penny Coin Showing Thrift Plant, Armeria maritima

It is therefore rather fitting that A. maritima is forever remembered in brass. The threepenny coin issued in Britain during the reign of George VI shows Thrift on the reverse side, a design modified by Percy Metcalfe after sketches by Frances Kitchener. The design bearing the flower on a twelve sided, nickle-brass coin was originally introduced for Edward the VIII in 1937, intending to replace the much smaller silver threepenny coin. Upon his abdication the design was retained for his brother's coinage, being minted (except 1947) from 1937 to his death in 1952 (Leatherhead & District Local History Society Proceedings 2000, Vol 6 No 4 p. 78).

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