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Purple Glasswort

Salicornia ramosissima

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Saltmarshes, seaside.

Green, no petals
Tiny and green with yellow anthers. Flowers are usually in groups of 3 up the stem.
A one-seeded fruit which is succulent and fleshy.
A very variable, purple tinged annual plant. Purple Glasswort is a succulent plant with translucent, scale-like leaves.
Other Names:
Branching Glasswort, Branching Pickleweed, Twiggy Glasswort.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Salicornia ramosissima is a species of halophytic (salt-tolerant) plant in the family Amaranthaceae. It is commonly known as branching glasswort or branched pickleweed. It is native to coastal salt marshes and salt flats in North America, and it can be found in the intertidal zone along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States. The plant is herbaceous, with succulent green stems and small, inconspicuous flowers. It is often used as a food source for wildlife and livestock and also used as a saline soil conditioner, traditional medicine and can be used as a source of biofuel.


Purple glasswort, scientifically known as Salicornia ramosissima, is a plant species that belongs to the family Amaranthaceae. It is commonly found in coastal areas throughout the world, including Europe, Asia, and North America. The plant is a halophyte, which means it can tolerate high levels of salt in its environment.

Appearance and Habitat

Purple glasswort is a small, succulent plant that grows up to 60 centimeters in height. It has slender, cylindrical stems that are reddish-purple in color, hence its common name. The stems are jointed and fleshy, with small, scale-like leaves that are often reduced to tiny bumps. The plant flowers in the summer, producing small, greenish-yellow flowers that are clustered at the tips of the stems.

Purple glasswort grows in salt marshes, along beaches, and in other coastal areas that are regularly inundated by seawater. It can also be found in salt flats, salt pans, and other areas where the soil has high levels of salt.


Purple glasswort has a long history of use as a food and medicinal plant. The plant is rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, iron, and calcium. In some cultures, the young shoots and stems are harvested and eaten raw or cooked. The plant has a slightly salty taste, which makes it a popular ingredient in salads, soups, and stews.

Purple glasswort has also been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive disorders, respiratory infections, and skin conditions. The plant contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, which may explain some of its medicinal effects.

In addition to its culinary and medicinal uses, purple glasswort has other practical applications. The plant has been used to make soap, and its ashes can be used to make glass. The plant is also used in landscaping, where it is valued for its ornamental value and ability to withstand salty, coastal environments.

Conservation Status

Purple glasswort is considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). While the plant is found in coastal areas that are often impacted by human activities, it is a resilient species that can tolerate some level of disturbance. However, like many coastal plants, purple glasswort may be vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and increased storm surges.

Purple glasswort is a fascinating plant species that is adapted to live in harsh coastal environments. Its unique appearance and culinary and medicinal uses make it a valuable resource for humans, while its ability to tolerate salt and other environmental stressors make it an important species for coastal ecosystems. As we continue to learn more about the plant's biology and ecological roles, we may discover new ways to use and conserve this important species.

More Information about Purple Glasswort

Purple glasswort, also known as samphire, is an important plant for coastal ecosystems as it stabilizes the soil and helps prevent erosion. It also provides habitat and food for a variety of insects and animals, including shorebirds and other coastal birds. Purple glasswort's ability to tolerate salt and other environmental stressors also makes it an important species for ecological restoration projects.

In addition to its traditional uses, there is growing interest in using purple glasswort as a crop for sustainable agriculture. Its ability to grow in salty, nutrient-poor soil makes it a potential candidate for growing crops in areas that are currently unsuitable for farming. Some researchers are also investigating the plant's potential for biofuel production.

Purple glasswort is a hardy plant that requires little maintenance once established. It can be propagated from seeds or stem cuttings and grows well in sandy, well-drained soil. However, because it is a halophyte, it may not be suitable for cultivation in areas with high levels of soil salinity.

While purple glasswort is not currently threatened, its coastal habitats are under increasing pressure from human activities, including development, pollution, and climate change. To ensure the continued survival of this important species, it is important to protect and conserve its coastal habitats and promote sustainable practices that minimize human impacts on these fragile ecosystems.

Purple glasswort is also being studied for its potential health benefits. As a rich source of antioxidants, it may have protective effects against chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Research has shown that purple glasswort extracts have anti-inflammatory effects, which may also contribute to its potential health benefits.

Purple glasswort is also known to have phytoremediation properties, meaning it can help remove pollutants from the soil and water. Because it can tolerate high levels of salt, it may be particularly useful for removing salt and other minerals from contaminated soil and water.

As a species that is well-adapted to coastal environments, purple glasswort can also play an important role in mitigating the impacts of climate change. Coastal plants like purple glasswort help stabilize the soil and prevent erosion, which can protect coastlines from storm surges and other extreme weather events. By promoting the conservation and restoration of coastal habitats, we can help protect and preserve important species like purple glasswort, while also helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Another interesting aspect of purple glasswort is its role in traditional medicine. In some cultures, it has been used to treat a variety of ailments, such as skin conditions, respiratory infections, and digestive disorders. The plant contains compounds that have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, which may explain some of its medicinal effects. While more research is needed to fully understand the plant's therapeutic potential, purple glasswort's long history of use in traditional medicine highlights its importance to human health and well-being.

Purple glasswort is also an important food source for many coastal birds and insects. Its succulent stems and leaves provide a nutritious snack for birds like the saltmarsh sparrow, which depends on coastal habitats for its survival. Insects like the salt marsh moth and salt marsh caterpillar also feed on purple glasswort, making it an important component of coastal food webs.

Finally, purple glasswort is a valuable species for coastal communities, providing a source of income and employment. In some areas, the plant is harvested for its culinary and medicinal uses, providing economic opportunities for local communities. Additionally, purple glasswort can be used in landscaping and horticulture, where it is valued for its ornamental value and ability to withstand salty, coastal environments.

Overall, purple glasswort is a fascinating and important plant species that plays a variety of roles in coastal ecosystems and human societies. Its ability to tolerate salt and other environmental stressors makes it a valuable tool for ecological restoration and sustainable agriculture, while its culinary and medicinal uses make it an important resource for human health and well-being. By promoting the conservation and restoration of coastal habitats, we can help protect and preserve this important species for generations to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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