Halophyte #3: Seaside heliotrope

Seaside heliotrope (Helitropium curassavicum), a.k.a. salt heliotrope, is a halophyte (plant of salty spaces) in Florida, but this wide-ranging plant inhabits moist places throughout the U.S. to central Canada to Argentina.  It sometimes can be invasive in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe in disturbed spots.

This plant has not been seen growing at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area but has does grow at the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge (PINWR), the Toni Robinson Waterfront Trail, and the Maritime Hammock Sanctuary in Brevard County where it was thriving in a difficult disturbed area …

In full sun it grows thickly and tends to be taller in height (to 12″), as shown above and below.

In really challenging conditions, as shown below in the center of a mosquito control dike at PINWR, it can be a prostrate creeper …

Its leaves are glaucous (bluish grey), succulent, and oblanceolate to spatulate.

Seaside heliotrope flowers all year in warmer places in Florida usually peaking in spring and summer.  It flowers are held in a distinctive cluster called a scorpoid cyme, a curled and coiled flower cluster with a double row of small flowers that open in sequence from the beginning to the end of the flower cluster.  Each tiny bell-shaped flower has five rounded lobes with a yellow throat that turns purple when pollinated.  Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators visit the flowers.

Its fruit has four tiny nutlets.  Quail eat the small seeds, and quail bush is another common name for this plant.

Seaside heliotrope is a member of the borage family, Boraginaceae.  The genus name, Heliotropium,  is derived from two Greek words:  Helios (sun) and trope (turning).  Its species name, curcassavicum, is a place name and refers to Curacao,

For a sunny moist places, seaside heliotrope would make a decorative landscape plant for pollinators.  Salty conditions are not necessary.

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