Comprehensive Description

58. Salicornia L

Salzcornia L., Sp. Pl.: 3 (1753);Ball, Feddes Repert. 69: 1-8 (1964);Tölken , Bothalia 9: 255-307 (1967). Sarcocornia A.J.Scott , Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 75: 366 (1978); P. G. Wilson , Nuytsia 3: 70-77 (1980). Arthrocnemum auct, non Moq. s. str.: CE. Moss (1954):Télken (1967).

Perennial or annual fleshy herbs or subshrubs. Flowers in 3-12-flowered cymes; perianth 3-4-lobed, lobes hard and spongy in fruit; stamens l-2. Pericarp membranous; seed coat membranous; perisperm absent. Zn = 18, 27, 36, 54, 72. 28 spp., worldwide.

Public Domain


Source: Plazi.org


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Depth range based on 8 specimens in 4 taxa.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 1 - 1
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.


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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / feeds on
Orthotylus rubidus feeds on Salicornia


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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:68
Specimens with Sequences:83
Specimens with Barcodes:49
Species With Barcodes:23
Public Records:54
Public Species:20
Public BINs:0
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Barcode data

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

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Salicornia is a genus of succulent, halophyte (salt tolerant) flowering plants in the family Amaranthaceae that grow in salt marshes, on beaches, and among mangroves. Salicornia species are native to North America, Europe, South Africa, and South Asia. Common names for the genus include glasswort, pickleweed, and marsh samphire; these common names are also used for some species not in Salicornia.[1] The main European species is often eaten, called marsh samphire in Britain, and the main North American species is occasionally sold in grocery stores or appears on restaurant menus, usually as 'sea beans' or samphire greens.


The Salicornia species are small, usually less than 30 cm tall, succulent herbs with a jointed horizontal main stem and erect lateral branches. The leaves are small and scale-like, and as such, the plant may appear leafless. Many species are green, but their foliage turns red in autumn. The hermaphrodite flowers are wind pollinated, and the fruit is small and succulent and contains a single seed.[2]

Salicornia species can generally tolerate immersion in salt water. They use the C4 carbon fixation pathway to take in carbon dioxide from the surrounding atmosphere.

Salicornia species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including the Coleophora case-bearers C. atriplicis and C. salicorniae (the latter feeds exclusively on Salicornia spp.).


Salicornia virginica

Nearly 60 species have been proposed for Salicornia.[3] Some common species are:


Salicornia europaea is edible, either cooked or raw.[4] In England, it is one of several plants known as samphire (see also Rock samphire); the term samphire is believed to be a corruption of the French name, [herbe de] Saint-Pierre, which means "St. Peter's herb".[5]

Samphire is usually cooked, either steamed or microwaved, and then coated in butter or olive oil. Due to its high salt content, it must be cooked without any salt added, in plenty of water. It has a hard, stringy core, and after cooking, the edible flesh is pulled off from the core. This flesh, after cooking, resembles seaweed in color, and the flavor and texture are like young spinach stems or asparagus. Samphire is often used as a suitably maritime accompaniment to fish or seafood.

In addition to S. europaea, the seeds of S. bigelovii yield an edible oil. S. bigelovii's edibility is compromised somewhat because it contains saponins, which are toxic under certain conditions.[4]

Umari keerai is cooked and eaten or pickled. It is also used as fodder for cattle, sheep and goats.[6] In Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka, it is used to feed donkeys.

On the east coast of Canada, the plant is known as "samphire greens" and is a local delicacy. In Southeast Alaska, it is known as "beach asparagus". In Nova Scotia, Canada, they are known as "crow's foot greens". In the United States, they are known as "sea beans" when used for culinary purposes. Other names include "sea asparagus", "sea green bean", "pousse-pierre", "passe-pierre", "pousse-pied", "sea pickle", and "marsh samphire".[7]

Industrial use (historical)[edit]

Salicornia virginica
See also: Soda ash and Barilla

The ashes of glasswort and saltwort plants and of kelp were long used as a source of soda ash (mainly sodium carbonate) for glassmaking and soapmaking. The introduction of the LeBlanc process for industrial production of soda ash superseded the use of plant sources in the first half of the 19th century.

Umari keerai is used as raw material in paper and board factories.[6]

Salicornia europaea flowers

Industrial use (contemporary)[edit]

See also: Biodiesel

Because Salicornia bigelovii can be grown using saltwater and its seeds contain high levels of unsaturated oil (30%, mostly linoleic acid) and protein (35%),[8][9] it can be used to produce animal feedstuff and as a biofuel feedstock on coastal land where conventional crops cannot be grown. Adding nitrogen-based fertiliser to the seawater appears to increase the rate of growth and the eventual height of the plant,[10] and the effluent from marine aquaculture (e.g. shrimp farming) is a suggested use for this purpose.[8]

Experimental fields of Salicornia have been planted in Ras al-Zawr (Saudi Arabia),[9] Eritrea (northeast Africa) and Sonora (northwest Mexico)[11] aimed at the production of biodiesel. The company responsible for the Sonora trials (Global Seawater) claims between 225 and 250 gallons of BQ-9000 biodiesel can be produced per hectare (approximately 2.5 acres) of salicornia,[12] and is promoting a $35 million scheme to create a 12,000-acre (49 km2) salicornia farm in Bahia de Kino.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Salicornia, Integrated Taxonomic Information System, serial number 20646.
  2. ^ Ball, Peter W. (2004). "Salicornia L.," in Flora of North America: North of Mexico Volume 4: Magnoliophyta: Caryophyllidae, part 1, Editorial Committee of the Flora of North America (Oxford University Press, 2004). ISBN 978-0-19-517389-5. Online versions retrieved July 14, 2007.
  3. ^ Global Biodiversity Information Facility (2007). "Salicornia" webpage retrieved July 14, 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Salicornia", page of the Plants for a Future website. Retrieved July 14, 2007.
  5. ^ Davidson, Alan (2002). The Penguin Companion To Food (Penguin), p. 828. ISBN 978-0-14-200163-9. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Completely Revised and Updated (Scribner, New York), p. 317. ISBN 978-0-684-80001-1.
  6. ^ a b Salicornia, oil-yielding plant for coastal belts, The Hindu
  7. ^ Cook's Thesaurus: Sea Vegetables, retrieved 2012-10-08.
  8. ^ a b Glenn, Edward P.; Brown, J. Jed; O'Leary, James W. (August 1998). "Irrigating Crops with Seawater" (PDF). Scientific American (USA: Scientific American, Inc.) (August 1998): 76–81. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  9. ^ a b Clark, Arthur (November–December 1994). "Samphire: From Sea to Shining Seed". Saudi Aramco World. Saudi Aramco. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  10. ^ Alsaeedi, Abdullah H. (2003 (1424H)). "Di Pattern of Salicornia Vegetative Growth in Relation to Fertilization" (PDF). Journal of King Faisal University (Al-Hassa: King Faisal University) 4 (1): 105–118. Retrieved 2008-11-17. adequate fertilization increases significantly the relative growth rate especially during the ‘rapid’ phase of the vegetative stage  Check date values in: |date= (help)[dead link]
  11. ^ "USIJI Uniform Reporting Document" (PDF). United States Initiative on Joint Implementation (USIJI). c. 1997. Retrieved 2008-11-17. Project Salicornia: Halophyte Cultivation in Sonora 
  12. ^ Ryan C. Christiansen (2008-07-31). "Sea asparagus can be oilseed feedstock for biodiesel". Biomass Magazine. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  13. ^ Dickerson, Marla (2008-07-10). "Letting the sea cultivate the land". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved 17 November 2008. 


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