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Sea Pearlwort

Sagina maritima

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Caryophyllaceae (Pink)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
10 centimetres tall
Beaches, mountains, roadsides, rocky places, saltmarshes, sand dunes, sea cliffs, seaside, walls, wasteland.

Green, no petals
Flowers have 4 minute, pale green sepals. There are no petals. Each flower is 2 or 3mm in diameter.
An upright capsule that is purple-edged and with hooded sepals.
Purplish-green, fleshy stems. The leaves are thick and blunt. Annual. Usually coastal but frequently found inland on salted roadsides.
Other Names:
Beach Pearlwort.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Sagina maritima, also known as sea pearlwort or beach pearlwort, is a small perennial herb in the family Caryophyllaceae. It is native to coastal regions of Europe, Asia, and North Africa, and typically grows in sandy or rocky areas, such as beaches, dunes, and rocky shores. The plant has small, green leaves and tiny white flowers that bloom in the summer. The root of the plant is not edible and it is not considered to be toxic. It is mainly used as a ground cover or in rock gardens. It is known for its ability to survive in harsh, coastal environments and can be useful for stabilizing sand dunes and other coastal habitats. It is also sometimes used in traditional medicine to treat certain ailments.


Sea Pearlwort (Sagina maritima) is a small flowering plant that is native to the coasts of Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a member of the Caryophyllaceae family and is commonly found in sandy and rocky coastal habitats. This hardy little plant is also known by several other common names, including sea matweed, sea-shore pearlwort, and seaside pearlwort.

Description and Appearance

Sea Pearlwort is a low-growing perennial plant that rarely grows more than a few centimeters tall. Its leaves are tiny and needle-like, and they grow in tight clusters along the stems. The leaves are a bright green color and are slightly succulent, giving them a slightly fleshy appearance. The plant produces small, white or pinkish flowers that are only a few millimeters across. The flowers appear in late spring or early summer and are often quite numerous.

Habitat and Distribution

Sea Pearlwort is a coastal plant that is commonly found in sandy and rocky habitats near the sea. It is often found growing on sand dunes, salt marshes, and rocky shores, and it can tolerate exposure to salt spray and other harsh environmental conditions. The plant is widely distributed throughout coastal regions of Europe, Asia, and North America, and it is particularly common in the northern parts of its range.


Sea Pearlwort has been used for various purposes throughout history. The plant was traditionally used in herbal medicine to treat a range of ailments, including respiratory conditions, digestive issues, and skin problems. It was also used as a food source by coastal communities, who would use the leaves in salads or as a seasoning for fish dishes.

Today, Sea Pearlwort is primarily grown as an ornamental plant in gardens and landscaping. Its low-growing habit and attractive foliage make it a popular choice for rock gardens, borders, and as a groundcover. The plant is also used in erosion control and to stabilize sandy soils in coastal areas.

Conservation Status

Sea Pearlwort is not considered to be a threatened species, but it is still important to protect its coastal habitat from degradation and development. Coastal habitats are under increasing pressure from human activities, including coastal development, pollution, and climate change. Protecting these habitats is crucial to ensure that plants like Sea Pearlwort can continue to thrive in their natural environment.

In conclusion, Sea Pearlwort is a hardy and attractive plant that is well-adapted to life in coastal habitats. Its tiny size and delicate flowers belie its resilience and adaptability, making it a valuable addition to any coastal garden or landscape. As we work to protect our coastal habitats, we should also strive to preserve and appreciate the natural beauty of plants like Sea Pearlwort.

Additional Information

Sea Pearlwort is an interesting plant that has been the subject of scientific study for many years. Researchers have investigated the plant's unique adaptations to life in coastal environments, including its ability to tolerate salt spray and its water-saving mechanisms. This research has helped us to better understand how plants can adapt to challenging environmental conditions and may have applications in agriculture and other fields.

One of the interesting features of Sea Pearlwort is its ability to form mutualistic relationships with soil fungi. These fungi form associations with the plant's roots, helping it to absorb nutrients from the soil. In return, the plant provides the fungi with carbohydrates and other compounds. This type of symbiotic relationship is common in many plant species and is important for ecosystem health.

Sea Pearlwort is also known for its ability to fix nitrogen. Like other members of the Caryophyllaceae family, Sea Pearlwort has the ability to form nodules on its roots that house nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These bacteria convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that can be used by the plant. This adaptation is particularly important for plants growing in nutrient-poor soils.

In addition to its ecological and scientific importance, Sea Pearlwort is a beloved plant in many coastal communities. It is often featured in art and literature and is a popular subject for nature photographers. The plant's delicate flowers and low-growing habit make it a charming addition to any coastal landscape.

Another interesting aspect of Sea Pearlwort is its cultural significance. In many cultures, Sea Pearlwort has been used as a symbol of resilience, adaptation, and perseverance. In Celtic folklore, the plant was believed to have magical powers and was used in various rituals and ceremonies. The plant was also used by sailors as a good luck charm and was believed to protect against shipwrecks and other maritime disasters.

Sea Pearlwort has also been used in traditional medicine for centuries. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including coughs, colds, and digestive disorders. It has also been used as a poultice to treat skin conditions such as burns and insect bites.

In recent years, Sea Pearlwort has attracted the attention of horticulturists and plant breeders. Several cultivars of the plant have been developed for use in landscaping, including varieties with larger flowers and different foliage colors. These cultivars are often used in rock gardens, containers, and as groundcover in coastal landscapes.

Despite its many virtues, Sea Pearlwort faces numerous threats in the wild. Coastal habitats are under increasing pressure from human activities, including development, pollution, and climate change. Invasive species and overgrazing by livestock can also impact the plant's survival. Protecting and restoring coastal habitats is crucial to ensure that plants like Sea Pearlwort can continue to thrive in their natural environment.

In conclusion, Sea Pearlwort is a fascinating and versatile plant with many cultural, ecological, and practical uses. As we continue to learn more about this remarkable species, it is important to appreciate its unique adaptations and to work towards preserving its coastal habitat for future generations to enjoy.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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