The plant species found growing on salt marshes reflect the influence of brackish water upon the area. Common scurvy grass is just one of the interesting plants growing in Saeftinghe; the species is characteristic for brackish marshes and readily grows here. Species like sea aster, sea club-rush, sea milkwort, sea arrowgrass, common saltmarsh grass and saltmarsh rush all grow abundantly throughout Saeftinghe. Less common species include celery, slender haresear, vulpia and lesser centaury. In the easterly part, where fresh water has a greater influence, large reed beds have developed: the largest growing in the Netherlands. Although reed beds are not of great botanical interest, they are very valuable for birds. It is anticipated that the reed beds will gradually develop and more shrub species will start inhabiting the area - the first elderberry has already established itself. The higher, raised areas of salt marsh are grazed by cattle and some of Saeftinghe’s richest flora is found here.
Common scurvy grass
Saefinghe is home to a large population of several thousand Colletes halophilus – a rare solitary bee, which digs its holes in sandy soils, and lives mainly on sea aster. This is why its distribution is restricted to sandy parts of saltmarsh habitat. The brood parasite or cuckoo bee, Epeolus tarsalis, is even rarer but has a large population in Saeftinghe. Another very rare species occurring here is the Mimumesa sibiricina: in Western Europe only a few isolated populations exist, of which the Saeftinghe population is the largest.
The fly species found in Saeftinghe have a characteristic composition for salt marsh habitat, with typical species such as Helophilus trivittatus and the coastal Platycheirus immarginatus. Saeftinghe also has a large population of the rare hover fly Platycheirus immarginatus. Of the horse-fly family, two uncommon species can be found: Haematopota bigoti and Hybomitra expollicata. In both species, the larvae live in brackish salt marshes. Large numbers of migrating and wandering butterflies can be spotted on the dikes and dams in and around Saeftinghe. For instance, in the summer of 2013, hundreds of dark clouded yellows were present. Butterflies do not like to cross water and tend to follow the coast for that reason. Interesting observations include small heath, wall brown and brown argus.
Picture on top of the page: Cuckoo bee.