Happy Halophytes

Halophytes are plants that are adapted to growing in salty conditions, in, for instance, mangrove swamps and salt marshes. Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) includes more than 250 acres of such coastal wetlands.

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge (PINWR), where we visited on 3-1-2018, is another wonderful place to view halophytic plants, some — but not all of which — grow at ORCA. Many of these plants are succulent; They have thickened fleshy leaves and stems for water storage.

Salt marsh succulents saltwort (Batis martima) and glasswort (Salicornia spp.) were abundant at PINWR at the Joe Michael overlook …

Pictured above are saltwort, the more chartreuse, bushy plant, and two species of glasswort: Perennial glasswort (Salicornia ambigua) and annual glasswort (Salicornia bieglovii). Also called Virginia glasswort, perennial glasswort likely shown in the upper left of the photo is less branched and more erect. Annual saltwort, also known as dwarf saltwort has a much more branched appearance …

Saltwort and glasswort are edible; No salt needed. Glasswort often turns red with “fall color”. These halophytes are abundant at the ORCA along the edges of the mosquito control dikes.

Sea blite (Suaeda linearis), an annual salt marsh succulent, was fresh and fluffy at PINWR. Slender, finger-like alternate leaves adorn its erect stems.

Seaside (or salt) heliotrope (Heliotropium curassavicum) was flowering at PINWR. This low-growing succulent has very fleshy greyish blue-green foliage and tiny white flowers with yellow throats arranged in scorpiod cymes (flower cluster with a central stem).

Scorpionstail (Heliotropium angiospermum) was growing nearby and shares a similar floral structure. Its leaves, however, are not succulent but crinkly. It can grow to be 3′ tall in moist, sunny, wind-protected places.

Look for these halophytic plants — salt marsh succulents — growing in coastal wetlands throughout Indian River County often together and sometimes with mangrove seedlings. It’s all about adaptation …

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