Pretty in Pink: Sea Pink

Sea-pink, salt marsh pink, annual rose gentian, and marsh pink are among the many names given to the pretty pink wildflower of coastal marsh places pictured above. Rose-of-Plymouth (Sabatia stellaris) is the preferred common name according the the University of South Florida Plant Atlas and belies its distribution which ranges from Massachusetts to Florida.

This annual plant varies in abundance from year to year and has been sighted regularly on field trips to Pelican Island National Island Refuge and Round Island. It has not been seen at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, but we can hope.

Its genus name, Sabatia, honors Liberatus Sabbati, an 18th century Italian botanist. Its species name, stellaris, means star and refers to the dramatic and jagged maroon star outlined in the center of this flower’s five pink petals. Note the green ovary, the long green stigma, and five pollen-laden yellow stamens.

Petal color can be very variable, and some are white or whitish. Flowers are held on slender stalks, 1 – 2′ tall, with linear leaves.

Twelve species of Sabatia occur in Florida according to the USF Plant Atlas, some of which have a very limited range in the panhandle. Largeflower rose gentian (Sabatia grandiflora), a near endemic, occurs throughout the state and in one county in Alabama and has a distinctive twisted yellow stigma (not shown here).

Rose-of-plymouth is easily distinguished from largeflower rose gentian by the burst of white that surrounds the maroon star at its center. Rose-of-plymouth is more tolerant of salty and brackish conditions. It often grows on mosquito control dikes as shown below at PINWR in March of 2014.

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