Open the Advanced Search

Sea Milkwort

Glaux maritima

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Primulaceae (Primrose)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Beaches, rocky places, saltmarshes, sand dunes, sea cliffs, seaside.

Pink, no petals
Sea Milkwort is a low-growing perennial herb characterized by its small, star-shaped pink or purple flowers that cluster along the stem. The flowers have five petals, each slightly rounded and delicate, giving them a dainty, understated charm. The blooms sit atop fleshy, lance-shaped leaves that are a vibrant green, providing a striking contrast to the flowers' pastel hues. Typically found in coastal regions, Sea Milkwort thrives in saline environments, often carpeting sandy shores and salt marshes with its colorful, yet subtle, floral display.
The fruit of the Sea Milkwort is a small, round capsule that forms after the flowering period. These capsules are typically green, turning brown as they mature and dry out. Each capsule is about the size of a small pea and contains tiny seeds that are dispersed by the wind or water. The fruit is not particularly showy, blending into the surrounding foliage, but it plays a crucial role in the plant's life cycle, ensuring the propagation and spread of Sea Milkwort in its coastal habitats.
The leaves of the Sea Milkwort are small, fleshy, and lance-shaped, with a smooth, succulent texture that helps the plant retain moisture in its salty, coastal environment. Arranged oppositely along the stem, these vibrant green leaves create a lush backdrop for the plant's delicate flowers. The leaves are typically 1 to 2 centimeters long and have a slightly waxy surface, which aids in reducing water loss and protecting the plant from the harsh seaside conditions. Their simple yet robust structure allows Sea Milkwort to thrive in saline soils, contributing to its resilience and widespread presence along coastal regions.
Sea Milkwort does not emit a pronounced fragrance. Its flowers and leaves are more notable for their visual appeal and succulent texture rather than any significant scent. This lack of strong fragrance is typical for many coastal plants, which often rely more on visual and structural adaptations to thrive in their saline, windy environments.
Other Names:
Black Saltwort, Sea Milkweed, Sea Milkweed, Sea Squill, Sea Trifoly.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Glaux maritima, also known as sea milkwort or sea squill, is a species of flowering plant in the primrose family (Primulaceae). It is native to coastal areas of Europe and Asia and is known for its small, white flowers. The plant typically grows in sandy or rocky habitats, and is often found in salt marshes and on sea cliffs. It's a perennial herb that forms low-growing mat and can be found in coastal regions and salt marshes. The leaves of the plant are small and fleshy, and the flowers are white or pale pink. It is also known for its medicinal properties and has been used traditionally as a tonic, laxative and diuretic.


Sea Milkwort, also known as Glaux maritima, is a small, salt-tolerant plant that grows in coastal areas throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Despite its unassuming appearance, this plant has a long history of use in traditional medicine and has recently gained attention for its potential therapeutic properties.

Description and Habitat

Sea Milkwort is a low-growing perennial herb that grows to a height of 10 to 30 cm. It has succulent leaves that are oval-shaped and grow in clusters along the stem. The plant produces small pink or white flowers that bloom from June to September. Sea Milkwort thrives in marshy areas and can tolerate high levels of salt, making it a common sight along seashores, salt marshes, and estuaries.

Traditional Uses

Sea Milkwort has a long history of use in traditional medicine for various ailments. It was traditionally used to treat digestive problems, as well as to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. It was also used as a diuretic and a laxative. In traditional Chinese medicine, Sea Milkwort was used to treat asthma and coughs.

Modern Research

Recent research has shown that Sea Milkwort may have potential therapeutic properties. Studies have shown that the plant contains a variety of bioactive compounds, including flavonoids, alkaloids, and phenolic acids, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.

One study conducted in 2016 found that extracts of Sea Milkwort had a significant inhibitory effect on the growth of cancer cells in vitro. Another study found that Sea Milkwort extracts had strong antimicrobial activity against several pathogenic bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.

In addition to its potential medicinal properties, Sea Milkwort has also been studied for its use in ecological restoration. The plant is known to help stabilize coastal soils and prevent erosion. Its ability to tolerate high levels of salt and grow in harsh coastal environments makes it an important species for coastal restoration efforts.

Cautions and Precautions

While Sea Milkwort has shown promising potential as a medicinal plant, more research is needed to fully understand its safety and efficacy. As with any herbal supplement, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using Sea Milkwort. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid using Sea Milkwort, as its safety has not been established for these populations.

Sea Milkwort is a small but mighty plant with a rich history of traditional use and promising potential for modern applications. Its ability to grow in harsh coastal environments and aid in ecological restoration make it an important plant for both human health and the environment. Further research is needed to fully understand its potential benefits and safety, but Sea Milkwort is certainly a plant to watch in the world of natural medicine and conservation.

More Information

Sea Milkwort, with its succulent and salt-tolerant nature, is an important plant for coastal ecosystems. It is known to help stabilize coastal soils and prevent erosion, which is critical for protecting shorelines from the impacts of sea-level rise and storm surges. The plant is also known to provide habitat and food for a variety of coastal wildlife, including insects, birds, and small mammals.

In addition to its potential medicinal and ecological benefits, Sea Milkwort has also been used for culinary purposes in some cultures. In Northern Europe, the plant has been used as a flavoring for beer and as a vegetable in soups and stews. Its salty and slightly bitter taste pairs well with seafood dishes and is often used as a substitute for samphire, another coastal plant with a similar flavor profile.

Sea Milkwort is a fascinating plant with a rich history of use and promising potential for future applications. Its ability to thrive in harsh coastal environments and provide numerous benefits for both humans and the environment make it an important plant to protect and conserve.

Sea Milkwort is an example of a halophyte, a plant that can tolerate high levels of salt in its environment. Halophytes have evolved unique adaptations to survive in salty conditions, such as the ability to excrete excess salt from their leaves and store water in their tissues. As climate change and rising sea levels threaten coastal ecosystems, halophytes like Sea Milkwort may become increasingly important for protecting shorelines and maintaining biodiversity.

The use of Sea Milkwort in traditional medicine highlights the importance of ethnobotanical knowledge, the study of the relationship between humans and plants. Ethnobotanical knowledge has played a critical role in the discovery of new medicines and the preservation of cultural traditions. As modern medicine continues to search for new treatments for diseases, it is important to consider the potential of traditional plant-based medicines, like Sea Milkwort, in drug discovery.

Sea Milkwort is just one example of the many plant species that have potential benefits for human health and the environment. As we continue to explore and understand the world's plant diversity, it is important to consider the ways in which we can use plants sustainably and responsibly, while also protecting and preserving the natural habitats in which they grow.

30 Quick Facts About Sea Milkwort

Here are 30 facts about Sea Milkwort (Glaux maritima):

  1. Scientific Name: Glaux maritima.
  2. Common Name: Sea Milkwort.
  3. Family: Primulaceae (primrose family).
  4. Growth Habit: Low-growing perennial herb.
  5. Flower Shape: Small, star-shaped.
  6. Flower Color: Pink or purple.
  7. Leaf Shape: Lance-shaped, fleshy.
  8. Leaf Arrangement: Opposite along the stem.
  9. Leaf Size: Typically 1 to 2 centimeters long.
  10. Leaf Texture: Smooth and succulent.
  11. Habitat: Coastal regions, salt marshes, sandy shores.
  12. Soil Preference: Saline soils.
  13. Distribution: Found in Europe, North America, and parts of Asia.
  14. Blooming Season: Typically blooms in summer.
  15. Fruit Type: Small, round capsule.
  16. Seed Dispersal: By wind or water.
  17. Edibility: Leaves are edible.
  18. Leaf Flavor: Slightly salty.
  19. Uses: Can be added to salads, used as a garnish, or cooked.
  20. Fragrance: Not particularly fragrant.
  21. Water Retention: Succulent leaves help retain moisture.
  22. Pollination: Mainly by insects.
  23. Propagation: By seeds.
  24. Resilience: Tolerates saline conditions well.
  25. Conservation Status: Not generally considered threatened.
  26. Height: Typically grows to about 10-30 cm tall.
  27. Flower Size: Small, about 3-5 mm across.
  28. Root System: Shallow and fibrous.
  29. Adaptations: Waxy leaf surface to reduce water loss.
  30. Ecological Role: Provides habitat and food for various coastal wildlife.


Sea Milkwort filmed at Bolton-le-Sands in Lancashire on the 2nd June 2024.


Please remember to Like and Subscribe to the WildFlowerWeb YouTube channel at

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map