PRICKLY SALTWORT

Salsola kali ssp. kali

Goosefoot Family [Amaranthaceae]

month8jul month8july month8aug month8sep month8sept month8oct

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8white
inner
inner8pink
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ5
stem
stem8round
stem
stem8ribbed
contact
contactZlowish

8th Aug 2015, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
A raft of Prickly Saltwort just above the high tide mark. Any that were below were probably washed out of the sand with the High Tide and Green Grass a day earlier, which probably washed away most traces of Isle of Man Cabbage at the same time.


8th Aug 2014, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Living a life of danger on the drift-line of sandy shores. A feather for scale.


8th Aug 2014, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
If they are not washed away by storms they can get buried alive under wind-blown sand in hot dry conditions, as here.


8th Aug 2014, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Bird's-eye view. It is spiny, highly-branched, dark-green and somewhat sprawling.


21st Sept 2013, Marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
A dying plant. Stems are ribbed and highly branched (alternate branching).


8th Aug 2014, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Multiply-branched (the branches are alternate) with somewhat sinuous stems.


8th Aug 2014, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The fruits are surrounded by three withering bracts.


8th Aug 2014, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are fleshy, short, linear and succulent with an oval cross-section and tipped by a sharp spine.


8th Aug 2014, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Succulent linear leaves.


8th Aug 2014, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The leaf-like bracts are arranged in threes at the centre of which either a flower resides, or later the fruit. They are flat, triangular and they too are tipped by a sharp spine.


8th Aug 2014, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Bracts triangular, flattish, with paler lime-green margin and short bristly hairs. The surface is covered in white pimples. The spine-tipped bracts are arranged S E & W but no north. At the centre is either a flower, or later, as here, a fruit.


8th Aug 2014, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Another fruit. The stems have short white bristly hairs along the numerous pale-green or reddish ribs.


8th Aug 2014, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Some stems are striped pale and dark-green.


8th Aug 2014, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The flowers occur in the centre of three bracts.


8th Aug 2014, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The flowers have five pale petals and five stamens with creamy anthers. Grains of sand for scale. Your Author has yet to find a plant with the petals visible.


8th Aug 2015, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
At great risk of injury to himself your Author has caught this close-up of the 5 stamens with cream-coloured anthers. Clear-coloured stubby projections on the edge of the bracts/leaves.


8th Aug 2015, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The pollen appears somewhat fibrous.


8th Aug 2015, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
In the middle of the anthers two curved styles emerge in opposite directions, which also have tiny projections. Like Sea Sandwort there are translucent polyps around the leaf-edges, perhaps an adaptation to highly saline conditions. There is also a film-like wavy circle around the lot, could these be the illusive petals?


21st Sept 2013, Marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The single fruit nestling at the summit of a whorl of spine-tipped triangular bracts. The fruits are usually winged. It is possible that the pink remains are those of the five white/pink petals.


29th Sept 2013, beach, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Fruit becoming more mature but is still wrapped in paperish bracts.


29th Sept 2013, beach, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The fruit revealed, un-wrapped.


Not to be semantically confused with : Prickly Lettuce, Prickly Poppy, Prickly Heath or Prickly Sow-Thistle [plants with similar names belonging to differing families not found on the drift line]

Many similarities to : Spineless Saltwort (Salsola kali ssp. tragus) but that mostly lacks the sharp spines at the tips of bracts and leaves and is erect and twice as tall at 1m.

Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature :

According to Wikipedia, Salsola kali has been moved to a differing genus, that of a new Kali genera, naming it Kali turgida (and the sub-species tragus is now called Kali tragus). However, Clive Stace retains the Salsola genus name for the Saltworts and your Author follows suit.

The 'kali' does not relate to the kali confectionery your Author bought as a child in the 50's: coloured and flavoured small crystals of sugar into which you dipped a wet finger and licked them off in your mouth, but is Arabic as is the word 'alkali'. The ashes from burnt Prickly Saltwort contains as much as 30% of Sodium Carbonate Na and a smaller proportion of Potassium Carbonate KCO3. The ash was commonly called 'soda ash' and is alkaline. The soda ash from Prickly Saltwort was mainly used to make glass but also has uses as a cleaning agent. The name 'Saltwort' refers to this high alkaline salt content, rather than to common salt, NaCl, but growing by the sea it must also contain quite a high proportion of salt. It is a 'succulent' containing a high proportion of (salty) water. It is also classed as a halophyte, a plant tolerant of (common or sea) salt.

In the United States this plant grows much taller than the 50cm observed in the UK and is also known as 'Tumbleweed' because when it is brown and in fruit, the wind catches it and blows it across America over considerable distances, scattering its seeds as it tumbles over the land. In reality, it is only one species of Tumbleweed in America, several other species are also known as Tumbleweeds because they roll up into a ball as they are blown across the States.

Like many coastal plants it is casual and opportunistic, sporadically appearing here and there when conditions allow, for, growing on the drift-line, it can easily get washed away by storms. Such drift-line plants tend to have no special season, fresh ones can be found growing nearly all year round, those who live a dangerous life on sandy soil near the sea-shore cannot be choosy.


  Salsola kali ssp. kali  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Amaranthaceae  

Distribution
 family8Goosefoot family8Amaranthaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Salsola
Salsola
(Saltworts)

PRICKLY SALTWORT

Salsola kali ssp. kali

Goosefoot Family [Amaranthaceae]