ANNUAL SEA-BLITE

Suaeda maritima

Goosefoot Family [Amaranthaceae]  

month8jul month8july month8aug month8sep month8sept month8oct

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8green
inner
inner8purple
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ0
stem
stem8round
sex
sexZbisexual
sex
sexZfemale

19th Aug 2010, salt-marshes, Lytham, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Much-branched glaucous-leaved annual 15 inches high.


8th Sept 2015, nr Marshside Quarry, Southport, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Grows upright in a thin spike of fleshy glaucous short leaves on salt-marshes.


5th Aug 2009, salt-marshes, St Annes on Sea, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Some specimens have side-branches.




25th Aug 2015, coastal marshes, north of Morecambe, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
From a single submerged root-stock many branching stems emerge.


19th Aug 2010, salt-marshes, Lytham, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
More mature specimens are branched, taller with the leaves spread away from the stems to reveal opened flowers in the leaf axils.


8th Sept 2015, nr Marshside Quarry, Southport, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
By September the flowers have been replaced by fruits.


8th Sept 2015, nr Marshside Quarry, Southport, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The stem can sometimes be fluted.


8th Sept 2015, nr Marshside Quarry, Southport, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
In hot or dry conditions the plant produces red pigments to help protect itself.


5th Aug 2009, salt-marshes, St Annes on Sea, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are short, half-round, flat on the upper surface and taper to a blunt tip.


5th Aug 2009, salt-marshes, St Annes on Sea, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Sometimes there are much shorter leaves a little like a bunch of bananas amongst fewer but longer leaves.


5th Aug 2009, salt-marshes, St Annes on Sea, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are green (sometimes purple or red) and petal-less, nestling in small bunches nestling in the axils of leaves, looking like miniature brussel sprouts when not opened.


19th Aug 2010, salt-marshes, Lytham, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
When not quite open, the flowers have five bulges with the short yellow anthers just protruding from the top.


19th Aug 2010, salt-marshes, Lytham, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The five green 'petals' (actually tepals) only partially open to reveal five anthers with cream-coloured pollen just protruding.


8th Sept 2015, nr Marshside Quarry, Southport, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Several flowers with anthers protruding from still shut sepals. The folded leaves somehow remind your Author of a link chain for ships anchors.


8th Sept 2015, nr Marshside Quarry, Southport, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Some flowers have the stamens protruding from the still shut sepals whilst another flower is open.


25th Aug 2015, coastal marshes, north of Morecambe, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The tiny flowers consist of 5 green curved tepals which only partially open, this is a hermaphrodite flower (bisexual) with both stamens and a stigma (somewhere hidden). The tepals persist into fruit partially concealing the fruit.


25th Aug 2015, coastal marshes, north of Morecambe, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The bracts, leaves, tepals and stems are covered in minute whitish glands which exude salt, for although, like many salt-marsh plants, the plant cannot do without some nutrients in sea-water, it cannot tolerate having too much salt.


25th Aug 2015, coastal marshes, north of Morecambe, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
 The style of probably a female-only flower since no anthers are visible as well.


8th Sept 2015, nr Marshside Quarry, Southport, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The five sepals open revealing 5 shortish filaments with an anther atop and aligned with the tip of the sepal. A short stubby twin stigma sits in the centre.


8th Sept 2015, nr Marshside Quarry, Southport, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The fruits, in various shades of pale-green and pale rose-pink. The stigma is still poking out from two nearer the top.


8th Sept 2015, nr Marshside Quarry, Southport, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Fruits.


8th Sept 2015, nr Marshside Quarry, Southport, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
A fruit with 5 bulges.


8th Sept 2015, nr Marshside Quarry, Southport, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The leaves have pores to allow excess salt to escape. No plant actually needs salt, but salt in the ground deters a great many other plants from ever germinating there so that those which are salt-tolerant have a better chance of growing there without much other competition.


Some similarities to : Glasswort. From a distance Annual Sea-blite could be mistaken for Glasswort because it is much the same height, grows in much the same kind of places, and looks similar in that it is glaucous, and has a 'Wild West cactus' look about it (apart from the huge size difference).

It is a succulent Facultative Halophyte (a halophyte which is dependant upon a strong source of salt in order to germinate) occupying the upper parts of salt-marshes which don't get inundated with sea water with every tide. The flowers on the plants are a mixture of bisexual and female-only. In Autumn the plants turn purplish-red. It is an annual and grows only where it has access to salt, usually the upper reaches of salt-marshes, but like English Stonecrop (Sedum anglicum), can also be found growing along some roads that are frequently gritted with rock-salt.

In response to slightly differing environmental conditions, Annual Sea-blite exhibits high phenotype plasticity (morphologically differing forms) of the plant in differing areas in a salt-marsh, depending on how high up or low down the salt-marsh it finds itself growing. This is an important adaptive mechanism which allows the plant to survive in differing salt concentrations.

Annual Sea-blite is also a Metallophyte, able to sequester metals, the concentrations of which are higher in the roots than in the leaves with the exception of zinc where this is reversed. Able to perform metal chelating it has potential to be used in the phytoremediation of soils heavily contaminated by heavy metals.


  Suaeda maritima  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Amaranthaceae  

Distribution
family8Goosefoot family8Amaranthaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Suaeda
Suaeda
(Sea-blights)

ANNUAL SEA-BLITE

Suaeda maritima

Goosefoot Family [Amaranthaceae]  

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