ROCK SAMPHIRE

SEA FENNEL

Crithmum maritimum

Carrot Family [Apiaceae]  

month8jul month8july month8Aug month8sep month8sept

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8green
 
inner
inner8cream
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ5
 
type
typeZclustered
 
type
typeZumbel
 
stem
stem8round
 
smell
smell8polish
polish

9th Aug 2012, Humphrey Head, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
Its natural habitat, on the side of rocky cliffs. The dark green plants are Rock Samphire. It was dangerous collecting it from rocky cliffs and Shakespeare, in his circum 1603 play 'King Lear', refers to this practice "Half-way down hangs one that gathers samphire: dreadful trade".


9th Aug 2012, Humphrey Head, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
Clinging on in the bare minimum of soil on limestone cliffs, catching sea spray during storms.


19th July, (North) Walney Island, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
On a sloping concrete sea-wall.


19th July, (North) Walney Island, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
On a concreted sloping sea-wall.


22nd Aug 2007, Conway/Llandudno coast, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
On shingle near the drift line. An unusually high density of flowers on this specimen.


19th July, (North) Walney Island, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
A salt-tolerant plant. The leaves are semi-succulent, the inflorescences on umbels.


22nd Aug 2007, Conway/Llandudno coast, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
A tangle of leaves and flowering umbels. All umbels possess hermaphrodite flowers.


9th Aug 2014, drift line, Hightown, Sefton Coast, Photo: © RWD
A Hoverfly shows the smallness of the florets.


1st Aug 2013, drift line, Hightown, Sefton Coast, Photo: © RWD
The umbels have very small creamy-yellow greenish flowers that never fully open.


19th July, (North) Walney Island, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
It has a compound umbel consisting of an umbel of umbellules. Both umbel and umbullules have a ring of short lanceolate bracts directly underneath.


19th July, (North) Walney Island, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The flowers have five petals which are usually curled up into a torus. The bracts underneath the umbellules come to an acute point.


19th July, (North) Walney Island, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Flowers can have a pinkish hue.


22nd Aug 2007, Conway/Llandudno coast, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
Flowers trying their best to open.


22nd Aug 2007, Conway/Llandudno coast, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
Even when open the five petals all have a strong inwards curvature like the negative terminal of a PP3 battery. The 5 stamens are much longer and stick out through the gaps.


1st Aug 2013, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The sepal tubes underneath each flower are barrel-shaped on Rock Samphire.


19th July, (North) Walney Island, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The tips of the thick succulent leaves tend to redden.


19th July, (North) Walney Island, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The leaflets of the pinnate leaves tend to point skywards.


19th July, (North) Walney Island, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The pinnate leaves look thicker in places that they are for they are folded up into what then looks like an oval cross-section, but there is a small linear gap.


1st Aug 2013, drift-line, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The 2 to 3-pinnate nature of the leaves can best be discerned from the leaf on the right, but usually, the leaflets bend to point skywards.


10th Oct 2015, Crosby Promenade, Waterloo, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
In fruit.


10th Oct 2015, Crosby Promenade, Waterloo, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
From below - between 5 and 10 short wide-ish bracts underneath the umbel, and between 6-8 smaller bracteoles beneath each umbellet (some withered to brown). There are between 8 - 36 main rays which are between 1 and 4cm long, which thicken when in fruit.


10th Oct 2015, Crosby Promenade, Waterloo, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Fruits only slightly laterally compressedinto an oval cross-section.


10th Oct 2015, Crosby Promenade, Waterloo, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Fruit is 5-6mm, ovoid-oblong with two white styles atop divergent which are shorter than the white stylopodium. The pedicels of the flowers/fruits are 5 to 10mm long.


10th Oct 2015, Crosby Promenade, Waterloo, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Bracteoles beneath umbellules come to an abrupt point.


Uniquely identifiable characteristics : A greeny yellowish very fleshy umbellifer growing on rock faces and cliffs by the seaside. It is one of several atypical Umbellifers.

Not to be confused with : Golden Samphire (Inula crithmoides) a member of the Dandelion & Daisy Family (Asteraceae)

Distinguishing Feature : Smells like shoe or furniture polish when crushed, although some report a citrus type odour. The extracted juice was formerly used to pickle foods.

In times past it was once used for pickling, and like glasswort, the spicy and salty succulent stems can be eaten raw as a snack. Or they can be boiled and eaten with butter like asparagus. The seed pods are used to flavour sauces, or can be pickled as can the green shoots. Your Author tried biting on a leaf and apart from the unusual taste, it also tasted sweetish (as well as salty), although potentially with Apiol(e) within it, he didn't want to try much.

No relation to : Marsh Samphire or Long Spiked Glasswort [a plant with similar name] which is a Glasswort (Long Spiked Glasswort) belonging to the Goosefoot Family.

Rock Samphire is the only member of the Crithmum Genus. It is a facultative halophyte, tolerating salt, sequestering it safely away, but not requiring it for maximal growth. Indeed, maximal growth occurs with zero salinity. Soil salinity restricts the growth of Rock Samphire, the higher the soil salinity concentration above 100mM, the more restrictive it is. Perhaps it is no coincidence that it never grows in the sea, and is always found either above the drift-line where rainwater will dilute that sea salt, or on rocky ledges and cliffs that just get sea-sprayed occasionally in storms. However, this leaves a puzzle; if Rock Samphire grows best without salt in the soil/water then why does it preferentially grow near the sea? There has to be a good reason. Perhaps it is because it is sunnier near the sea? The Author muses: Although increasing salinity stunts its growth, it must also offer some benefit otherwise why would Rock Samphire preferentially grow near the sea; maybe it offers protection from parasites, fungi, predators or infections, or perhaps it increases the fecundity of the seeds of Rock Samphire? Aha! Eureka! Your Author was right, he has found a research paper where it says that the smallest seeds showed the highest germination percentage under salinity, but which is also modulated by the colour of the light (higher under red light than white light). Sea-sides may get a lot of red sunsets (especially those on the west coast).

The coastal shingle plants Sea Kale (Crambe maritima) Yellow Horned-Poppy (Glaucium flavum) and Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum) are thermophilous, growing well and increasing in numbers with warmer summers.

Rock Samphire contains the poisonous phenylpropanoid Apiol (aka Apiole) which is related to Eugenol. It is also found in Garden Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), the arbortifacient properties of which are partly due to Apiol, which is cytotoxic in higher doses. It has been used medicinally for menstrual problems, and in the Middle Ages to aid abortion. In higher doses it can cause liver and kidney damage. Apiol is not used in medicine now.

Rock Samphire also contains the isomer of Apiol, Dillapiole, which is found in Dill (Anethum graveolens).

ESSENTIAL OIL COMPOSITION

The essential oil distilled from Rock Samphire contains several components of which Sabinene, γ-Terpinene and MethylThymol constitute 80%. Other reported components include para-Cymene, β-Phellandrene, (Z)-β-Ocimene, Limonene and Thymol Methyl Ether all at significant (>1%) concentrations. The sesquiterpenoid Spathulenol (which has cyclopentane and cyclopropane rings fused to a 7-membered ring) was found in one specimen at 8.4%, but was minimal (0.1%) in other specimens.

Different populations/samples will vary in their concentration of these volatile oils, in some specimens certain compounds were absent altogether.


β-Phellandrene, a monoterpene, is also found in Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and in the non-native Balsam Fir Tree (Abies balsamea) and is isomeric with α-Phellandrene but with one of the double bonds is exocyclic (outside the carbon ring). It is used in fragrances, possessing a slightly-citrusy pepperminty aroma,


Two more monoterpenes are Methyl Thymol and Thymol Methyl Ether, the latter is found in Thyme and is also used in scents.


  Crithmum maritimum  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Apiaceae  

Distribution
family8Carrot family8Umbelliferae  family8Apiaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Crithmum
Crithmum
(Rock Samphire)

ROCK SAMPHIRE

SEA FENNEL

Crithmum maritimum

Carrot Family [Apiaceae]  

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