Holiday Halophyte

Donna Winter (Class of 2016) sent this photo of gorgeous glasswort (Salicornia sp.) growing amongst sea oxeye daisy (Borrichia frutescens) and white mangrove (Languncularia racemosa) and showing its Christmas color. Like Christmasberry, glasswort is succulent and is a halophyte, a plant that grows in saline places. The genus name, Salicornia, means salt horn.

Two species of glasswort grow in high marsh areas of Indian River County are similar in appearance. Both species turn red in winter, and higher salt conditions are said to produce redder reds.

Dwarf glasswort (Salicornia bigelovii) is also called annual glasswort. Its species name, bigelovii, honors Jacob Bigelow, an American botanist (1787 – 1879), who first found this species growing in the U.S. This annual plant grows in all coastal areas in the U.S.

Perennial glasswort (Salicornia ambigua), also know as Virginia glasswort, had the botanical name Salicornia virginica, until recently. Its range is limited to the coastal areas in the eastern U.S.

According to John Kunkel Small, an early botanical explorer of Florida (1869 – 1938) dwarf glasswort has an erect habit, seen above in dried out soil in an impoundment at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, while perennial glasswort is more prostrate. Both plants are amazingly adapted to harsh and salty conditions.

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