Inspired by the glass show currently on display at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, In Dialogue with Nature: Glass in the Gardens, we are highlighting Salicornia, a genus of plants also known as glassworts, pickleweed, samphire, and saltwort, for our EcoQuest in August 2021. Salicornia are small halophytic species in the Amaranthaceae family. These plants are found along the beaches, salt marshes, and mangrove ecosystems of North America, Europe, South Africa, and South Asia. These small annual or perennial herbs grow prostrate or erect with simple hairless and, succulent, stems that appear jointed. Their stems vary from red to green and their leaves are reduced to small fleshy scales. Flowers are small, complex, and bisexual. They produce small fleshy fruits with a single seed.
There are a variety of uses for glassworts, including glassmaking! The ashes of the dried, burnt plants contain copious amounts of potash and soda ash and were historically used to manufacture glass and soap. In addition, this salty plant is eaten raw, pickled, or cooked; the seeds are used to make oil; and the plant is used as a biofilter for marine effluent.
There are about 30 species of Salicornia and the two native species that are found in Sarasota and Manatee Counties are Salicornia ambigua and S. bigelovii. If you are interested in seeing this unique species and would like to observe it in its natural habitats, please join our upcoming BioBlitz at Terra Ceia State Park on August 27thby registering with the event link below or go on your own hunt and share your findings through the iNaturalist project site. While you are out there, please photograph other salt march species as well. Happy glass gazing!