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Salicornia europaea MS 0802.JPG
Salicornia europaea
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Core eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Amaranthaceae
Subfamily: Salicornioideae
Genus: Salicornia

See text.

Salicornia is a genus of succulent, halophyte (salt tolerant) flowering plants in the family Amaranthaceae that grow in salt marshes, on beaches, and among mangroves. Salicornia species are native to North America, Europe, South Africa, and South Asia. Common names for the genus include glasswort, pickleweed, and marsh samphire; these common names are also used for some species not in Salicornia.[1] The main European species is often eaten, called marsh samphire in Britain, and the main North American species is occasionally sold in grocery stores or appears on restaurant menus, usually as 'sea beans' or samphire greens or sea asparagus .


The Salicornia species are small, usually less than 30 cm tall, succulent herbs with a jointed horizontal main stem and erect lateral branches. The leaves are small and scale-like, and as such, the plant may appear leafless. Many species are green, but their foliage turns red in autumn. The hermaphrodite flowers are wind pollinated, and the fruit is small and succulent and contains a single seed.[2]

Salicornia species can generally tolerate immersion in salt water. They use the C4 carbon fixation pathway to take in carbon dioxide from the surrounding atmosphere.

Salicornia species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including the Coleophora case-bearers C. atriplicis and C. salicorniae (the latter feeds exclusively on Salicornia spp.).


Salicornia virginica

Nearly 60 species have been proposed for Salicornia.[3] Some common species are:


Salicornia europaea is edible, either cooked or raw.[4] In England, it is one of several plants known as samphire (see also Rock samphire); the term samphire is believed to be a corruption of the French name, [herbe de] Saint-Pierre, which means "St. Peter's herb".[5]

Samphire is usually cooked, either steamed or microwaved, and then coated in butter or olive oil. Due to its high salt content, it must be cooked without any salt added, in plenty of water. It has a hard, stringy core, and after cooking, the edible flesh is pulled off from the core. This flesh, after cooking, resembles seaweed in color, and the flavor and texture are like young spinach stems or asparagus. Samphire is often used as a suitably maritime accompaniment to fish or seafood.

In addition to S. europaea, the seeds of S. bigelovii yield an edible oil. S. bigelovii's edibility is compromised somewhat because it contains saponins, which are toxic under certain conditions.[4]

Umari keerai is cooked and eaten or pickled. It is also used as fodder for cattle, sheep and goats.[6] In Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka, it is used to feed donkeys.

On the east coast of Canada, the plant is known as "samphire greens" and is a local delicacy. In Southeast Alaska, it is known as "beach asparagus". In Nova Scotia, Canada, they are known as "crow's foot greens". In British Columbia, Canada, they are known as "Sea Asparagus".[7] In the United States, they are known as "sea beans" when used for culinary purposes. Other names include "sea asparagus", "sea green bean", "pousse-pierre", "passe-pierre", "pousse-pied", "sea pickle", and "marsh samphire".[8]

In India, researchers at the Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute developed a process to yield culinary salt from salicornia brachaita. The resulting product is known as vegetable salt and sold under the brand same Saloni.[9]

Industrial use[edit]


Salicornia virginica
See also: Soda ash and Barilla

The ashes of glasswort and saltwort plants and of kelp were long used as a source of soda ash (mainly sodium carbonate) for glassmaking and soapmaking. The introduction of the LeBlanc process for industrial production of soda ash superseded the use of plant sources in the first half of the 19th century.

Umari keerai is used as raw material in paper and board factories.[6]

Salicornia europaea flowers


See also: Biodiesel

Because Salicornia bigelovii can be grown using saltwater and its seeds contain high levels of unsaturated oil (30%, mostly linoleic acid) and protein (35%),[10][11] it can be used to produce animal feedstuff and as a biofuel feedstock on coastal land where conventional crops cannot be grown. Adding nitrogen-based fertiliser to the seawater appears to increase the rate of growth and the eventual height of the plant,[12] and the effluent from marine aquaculture (e.g. shrimp farming) is a suggested use for this purpose.[10]

Experimental fields of Salicornia have been planted in Ras al-Zawr (Saudi Arabia),[11] Eritrea (northeast Africa) and Sonora (northwest Mexico)[13] aimed at the production of biodiesel. The company responsible for the Sonora trials (Global Seawater) claims between 225 and 250 gallons of BQ-9000 biodiesel can be produced per hectare (approximately 2.5 acres) of salicornia,[14] and is promoting a $35 million scheme to create a 12,000-acre (49 km2) salicornia farm in Bahia de Kino.[15] Stems and roots of Salicornia brachiata plants had high cellulose contents (ca. 30%), whereas tender stem tips contents low cellulose content (9.2%).[16] Salicornia brachiata revealed the dominance of rhamnose, arabinose, mannose, galactose, and glucose, with meager presence of ribose and xylose in their structural polysaccharide.[17]

Environmental uses[edit]

Pickleweed is used in Phytoextraction, it is highly effective at removing selenium from soil, which is absorbed by the plant and then released into the atmosphere to be dispersed by prevailing winds.[18] Pickleweed (Salicornia bigelovii) has been found to have average volatilization rates 10-100 times higher than other species.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Salicornia, Integrated Taxonomic Information System, serial number 20646.
  2. ^ Ball, Peter W. (2004). "Salicornia L.," in Flora of North America: North of Mexico Volume 4: Magnoliophyta: Caryophyllidae, part 1, Editorial Committee of the Flora of North America (Oxford University Press, 2004). ISBN 978-0-19-517389-5. Online versions retrieved July 14, 2007.
  3. ^ Global Biodiversity Information Facility (2007). "Salicornia" webpage retrieved July 14, 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Salicornia", page of the Plants for a Future website. Retrieved July 14, 2007.
  5. ^ Davidson, Alan (2002). The Penguin Companion To Food (Penguin), p. 828. ISBN 978-0-14-200163-9. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Completely Revised and Updated (Scribner, New York), p. 317. ISBN 978-0-684-80001-1.
  6. ^ a b Salicornia, oil-yielding plant for coastal belts, The Hindu
  7. ^
  8. ^ Cook's Thesaurus: Sea Vegetables, retrieved 2012-10-08.
  9. ^ "Indian scientists produce salt from vegetable". The Economic Times (India). 18 May 2003. 
  10. ^ a b Glenn, Edward P.; Brown, J. Jed; O'Leary, James W. (August 1998). "Irrigating Crops with Seawater" (PDF). Scientific American (USA: Scientific American, Inc.) (August 1998): 76–81. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  11. ^ a b Clark, Arthur (November–December 1994). "Samphire: From Sea to Shining Seed" (PDF). Saudi Aramco World. Saudi Aramco. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  12. ^ Alsaeedi, Abdullah H. (2003 (1424H)). "Di Pattern of Salicornia Vegetative Growth in Relation to Fertilization" (PDF). Journal of King Faisal University (Al-Hassa: King Faisal University) 4 (1): 105–118. Retrieved 2008-11-17. adequate fertilization increases significantly the relative growth rate especially during the ‘rapid’ phase of the vegetative stage  Check date values in: |date= (help)[dead link]
  13. ^ "USIJI Uniform Reporting Document" (PDF). United States Initiative on Joint Implementation (USIJI). c. 1997. Retrieved 2008-11-17. Project Salicornia: Halophyte Cultivation in Sonora  External link in |publisher= (help)
  14. ^ Ryan C. Christiansen (2008-07-31). "Sea asparagus can be oilseed feedstock for biodiesel". Biomass Magazine. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  15. ^ Dickerson, Marla (2008-07-10). "Letting the sea cultivate the land". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved 17 November 2008. 
  16. ^ Sanandiya, Naresh D.; Prasad, Kamalesh; Meena, Ramavatar; Siddhanta, Arup K. (2010-04-01). "Cellulose of Salicornia brachiata". Natural Product Communications 5 (4): 603–606. ISSN 1934-578X. PMID 20433080. 
  17. ^ Sanandiya, Naresh D.; Siddhanta, A. K. (2014-11-04). "Chemical studies on the polysaccharides of Salicornia brachiata". Carbohydrate Polymers 112: 300–307. doi:10.1016/j.carbpol.2014.05.072. ISSN 1879-1344. PMID 25129748. 
  18. ^ Eichhorn, Peter H. Raven ; Ray F. Evert ; Susan E. (2011). Biology of plants (8. ed.). New York, NY: Freeman. p. 12. ISBN 9781429219617. 
  19. ^ Terry, N; Zayed, AM; De Souza, MP; Tarun, AS (June 2000). "SELENIUM IN HIGHER PLANTS." (PDF). Annual Review of Plant Physiology and Plant Molecular Biology 51: 401–432. doi:10.1146/annurev.arplant.51.1.401. PMID 15012198.