15 September 2013

Glamorgan Glassworts

Yellow Glasswort (Salicornia fragilis) left, and
Purple Glasswort (S. ramosissima) right 
Salicornia is a very difficult genus and of the seven recognised British species, five have been recorded in Glamorgan. The commonest species are Purple Glasswort (S. ramosissima), which generally occupies the upper saltmarsh where it can be very abundant in salt pans, and Long-spiked Glasswort (S. dolichostachya), a species most frequent as a lower marsh pioneer.

Of the less frequent species One-flowered Glasswort (S. pusilla) is the easiest to identify as all the other species have flowers in threes; it can be locally frequent on the higher saltmarsh. Last week I found Yellow Glasswort (S. fragilis) along the shore between Loughor Bridge and Loughor Yacht Club (see photo above). It seems likely that I have been overlooking this species as the Flora of Glamorgan states it is 'Abundant in the North Gower Saltmarshes', so one I'll be keeping an eye out for it elsewhere.

The final species, Common Glasswort (S. europaea), is perhaps the most tricky. I have not yet specifically looked for it this year, but in 2010 there was an abundance of apparent Common Glasswort on the sand/mudflats off Penclawdd, However there were no records of this species for the Burry in the county database I inherited from Quentin and the Flora of Glamorgan not only lists just two records, but paints a confusing picture over the taxonomic status of the species, which casts doubt on the county status of this species. Perhaps it's time some material was sent to the Salicornia referee?

Those with an interest in food probably already know that this is an edible species and Neil & Elsbethe Edwards told me they enjoyed 'Samphire', which was bought locally in Mumbles last week, served blanched as a starter. Unfortunately they couldn't tell me what species!


Charles Hipkin said...

Salicornia fragilis was also recorded from Jersey Marine (presumably Crymlyn Burrows) in 1980. I've searched for it on occasions since then but I've not been able to convince myself of anything sufficiently different to Salicornia dolichostachya. Both species are members of the Salicornia procumbens aggregate and their distinguishing features overlap quite a bit. They also share identical chromosome numbers and, presumably, could form hybrids. Curiously, they also seem to have identical ecologies. Not surprisingly, some people think they are both the same species.
According to the literature, Salicornia fragilis turns bright yellow when it's in fruit while Salicornia dolichostachya turns dull yellow! This may be a useful indicator later in the season. A photograph of both, side by side, would be helpful.

Barry Stewart said...

I'll try and collect some material this year and see if I can have it determined by an expert, but I'll take some record shots first. I do find the colours of the Chenopodiaceae can vary enormously, for example today I found two plants of Suaeda maritima growing side-by-side, one that was tinged dark purple and the other bright yellowy green!