Halophyte #1: Samphire, Silverhead

Samphire, silverhead, saltweed, silverweed, and beach carpet are common names for Blutaparon vermiculare, an annual halophyte that sometimes grows on the mosquito control dikes at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA).  At a glance, this low growing fleshy succulent resembles shoreline purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum).

Samphire grows in low mats from 2 –  4″ high on beaches and the edges of salt marshes.  It is found in tropical coastal places including Florida, Louisiana, Texas, the Caribbean, South America, and Africa.

Its genus, Blutaparon, lets us know that the plant is a member of the amaranth family, Amaranthaceae.  Bluta or blitum means Amaranth in Latin, and paron is Greek for near.  Its species name, vermiculare, means breeding worms in Latin and refers to its growth habit.

Its stems are golden or reddish in color, and its opposite leaves are linear with an acute leaf apex..  The stems are photosynthetic.

Its flowers are the easiest way to differentiate this plant from shoreline purslane.  Slightly silvery heads emerge from the leaf axils (angles) and house tiny yellow 5-petaled flowers that attract small pollinators.   Flowering occurs throughout the year peaking in the spring.

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