Open the Advanced Search

Perennial Glasswort

Salicornia perennis

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:
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Saltmarshes, seaside.

Green, no petals
Minute flowers with yellow anthers. Usually in groups of 3 in the leaf nodes along the stem.
Succulent, fleshy one-seeded fruit.
Perennial Glasswort is only shrubby Glasswort species in the UK. It has slightly woody stems and is tinged with orange as it ages. The translucent leaves are scale-like and attached to the main stem.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Sarcocornia perennis, also known as perennial glasswort, is a salt-tolerant herb that grows in coastal salt marshes, salt flats, and other saline habitats. It is a halophyte, a plant that is adapted to living in environments with high levels of salt. Perennial glasswort has fleshy, succulent leaves and stems, and it produces small, inconspicuous flowers in the summer. The plant is typically green, but can turn red or purple in response to high salt concentrations or drought. It is considered a pioneering species in salt marshes, which means it is one of the first plants to colonize and establish itself in newly formed salt marshes.


Perennial Glasswort, also known as Salicornia perennis, is a unique plant species that is well adapted to thrive in harsh, salty environments. This plant is commonly found in coastal areas and salt marshes across Europe and Asia, and is known for its unusual appearance and its ability to provide important ecological services.

Perennial Glasswort is a succulent plant that grows to a height of around 30cm, with fleshy, cylindrical stems and small, scale-like leaves that are often reduced to a vestigial point. Its stems are usually green but can sometimes turn reddish-brown in color. The plant produces small, greenish flowers that grow in clusters at the tips of its stems, which mature into small, hard fruits.

One of the most remarkable features of Perennial Glasswort is its ability to survive in highly saline environments. This plant is classified as a halophyte, which means it is adapted to grow in soils with high salt concentrations. Perennial Glasswort achieves this by using specialized cells in its stems to store salt, which helps it to maintain an osmotic balance with its environment.

Perennial Glasswort plays an important ecological role in the areas where it grows. It is often used as a food source by migratory birds that stop in coastal areas during their journeys. The plant also helps to stabilize soil in salt marshes, and its dense root systems can help to prevent erosion in areas that are prone to flooding.

In addition to its ecological importance, Perennial Glasswort has been used by humans for centuries for a variety of purposes. In some parts of the world, the plant is harvested and used as a food source. Its tender stems and shoots are often pickled or boiled and served as a vegetable, and it is also used as a flavoring agent in some dishes. Perennial Glasswort has also been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory problems and digestive issues.

Despite its many benefits, Perennial Glasswort is facing threats in some areas due to habitat loss and degradation. The destruction of salt marshes, pollution, and climate change are all contributing factors that are putting this plant at risk. Efforts are being made to conserve and restore the habitats where Perennial Glasswort grows, but more action is needed to ensure that this important plant species is protected for future generations.

Perennial Glasswort is a resilient and adaptable plant that has evolved to tolerate the harsh conditions of salt marshes and coastal areas. Its ability to store salt in its stems allows it to grow in soils with high salt concentrations, where other plants would struggle to survive. This makes it an important pioneer species that plays a crucial role in the establishment of salt marsh ecosystems.

As a food source, Perennial Glasswort has been harvested and consumed by humans for centuries. In some parts of the world, it is known as "sea asparagus" and is considered a delicacy. It has a salty, tangy flavor and is often used as a garnish or ingredient in salads and other dishes. In addition to its culinary uses, Perennial Glasswort has also been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including asthma, coughs, and stomach problems.

Perennial Glasswort is an important habitat for many species of birds, insects, and other animals. The dense root systems of this plant help to stabilize soil and prevent erosion in salt marshes, while also providing cover and nesting sites for a variety of wildlife. The plant also plays a vital role in the nutrient cycling of salt marsh ecosystems, helping to recycle and redistribute important nutrients throughout the ecosystem.

However, Perennial Glasswort is facing threats from a variety of human activities. The destruction of salt marsh habitats, pollution, and climate change are all contributing factors that are putting this plant at risk. In some areas, invasive species are also competing with Perennial Glasswort for resources and space. Conservation efforts are needed to protect the habitats where Perennial Glasswort grows and to prevent further damage to these fragile ecosystems.

One interesting fact about Perennial Glasswort is that it is a member of the Amaranthaceae family, which includes many other salt-tolerant plants such as beetroot, quinoa, and spinach. This family of plants is known for its ability to accumulate nitrogen and other nutrients, making it an important resource for improving soil quality and productivity.

Another fascinating aspect of Perennial Glasswort is its role in carbon sequestration. Salt marshes, where Perennial Glasswort often grows, are known for their ability to store large amounts of carbon in their soils. These ecosystems are considered important carbon sinks, as they can sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil for long periods of time. By protecting and restoring salt marsh habitats, we can help mitigate the impacts of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to its ecological and cultural significance, Perennial Glasswort has also been studied for its potential industrial uses. Its stems contain high amounts of sodium and potassium salts, which can be extracted and used in the production of cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and other products. The plant has also been studied for its potential as a biofuel feedstock, as its high salt content and ability to grow in saline soils make it a promising candidate for use in bioenergy production.

One of the most interesting aspects of Perennial Glasswort is its ability to survive in extremely saline environments. The plant has adapted to these conditions by developing a specialized system of salt glands in its stems, which allows it to excrete excess salt and maintain a healthy water balance. This unique adaptation has made Perennial Glasswort a model organism for studying the mechanisms of salt tolerance in plants.

Studies have shown that the salt tolerance of Perennial Glasswort is due, in part, to the expression of specific genes that are involved in regulating ion transport and water uptake. By studying these genes, researchers hope to develop new strategies for improving the salt tolerance of crops and other plant species, which could have important implications for food security in areas affected by soil salinization.

Perennial Glasswort also has potential as a phytoremediation species, meaning it can be used to clean up polluted soils and water. The plant has been shown to absorb and accumulate heavy metals and other pollutants from contaminated soils, which can help to reduce the concentration of these pollutants and improve soil quality.

In terms of its cultural significance, Perennial Glasswort has been used by coastal communities around the world for food and medicine for centuries. In Europe, the plant is commonly used in traditional cuisine, while in Asia it has been used for medicinal purposes. The plant has also been used as a dye source, with its stems and leaves producing shades of green and yellow.

Overall, Perennial Glasswort is a fascinating plant species with a range of ecological, cultural, and industrial uses. As our understanding of its biology and potential applications continues to grow, there is great potential for this plant to play an increasingly important role in agriculture, environmental remediation, and other fields. By supporting research and conservation efforts aimed at protecting and studying Perennial Glasswort, we can help unlock its full potential and ensure its survival for generations to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map