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Glaucous Glasswort

Salicornia obscura

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Plant Profile

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

Green, no petals
Tiny green flowers with yellow anthers, barely noticeable.
The fruit is succulent, fleshy and single seeded.
A few-branched species of glasswort with succulent, scale-like leaves. Foliage becomes dull yellowish-green with age.
Other Names:
Black Saltwort.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Glaucous glasswort, is a species of flowering plant in the family Amaranthaceae. It is native to coastal salt marshes and mudflats in Europe and North America.

It is a small annual succulent herb, usually growing to be upto 60 cm tall. The stem and leaves of the plant are glaucous-green colored and it is fleshy and brittle. The leaves are scale-like and small. The flowers are small and greenish, arranged in small clusters. Like other Salicornia species, it is able to tolerate high levels of salt in the soil.

It is considered an edible plant and the fresh plants are often used to make pickles, it is also used as a seasoning in cooking. It is also used for ornamental and landscaping purposes, as well as for coastal erosion control.


Glaucous Glasswort, also known as Salicornia obscura, is a succulent plant that belongs to the Amaranthaceae family. It is commonly found in salt marshes and tidal flats along coastlines around the world. This plant is also known as black saltwort, and it is a halophyte, meaning it can grow in soils with high salt concentrations.

Glaucous Glasswort has a unique appearance that sets it apart from other plants. Its stems are cylindrical and green, with a reddish tint at the base. The plant can grow up to 60 centimeters tall, and its leaves are very small, cylindrical, and fleshy. They are arranged in a spiral pattern along the stem and are an important adaptation for the plant's survival in harsh saline environments.

The plant's flowers are small, green, and inconspicuous, with no petals. They are arranged in clusters on the stem and are wind-pollinated. The seeds are tiny and black, and they are dispersed by the wind.

Glaucous Glasswort is an important plant in salt marsh ecosystems because it provides habitat and food for many animals. The stems and leaves of the plant are a food source for various types of waterfowl, including ducks and geese, as well as shorebirds like sandpipers and plovers. The plant is also used as a food source for humans in some cultures. In parts of Europe, for example, it is pickled and used as a condiment or eaten as a vegetable.

The plant also plays a crucial role in stabilizing the soil in salt marshes. Its deep root system helps to anchor the plant in the soil, preventing erosion and creating a stable environment for other plants and animals to thrive.

Despite its ecological importance, Glaucous Glasswort faces threats from habitat loss and degradation. Coastal development, sea-level rise, and climate change are all factors that can affect the plant's ability to survive in its natural habitat.

Glaucous Glasswort is a fascinating plant that has adapted to survive in harsh saline environments. It provides important habitat and food for many animals, and plays a crucial role in stabilizing salt marsh ecosystems. As we continue to face environmental challenges, it is important to recognize and protect the ecological value of plants like Glaucous Glasswort.

One of the interesting adaptations of Glaucous Glasswort is its ability to tolerate high salt concentrations in the soil. The plant has evolved specialized structures, such as salt glands, that enable it to remove excess salt from its tissues. These salt glands are located on the surface of the plant's leaves and stems and excrete salt in the form of droplets.

Another adaptation of Glaucous Glasswort is its ability to survive in anaerobic (low-oxygen) soils. In salt marshes, the soil can become waterlogged, creating conditions that are challenging for many plants. However, Glaucous Glasswort is able to survive in these conditions by using a specialized form of respiration known as fermentation. This process allows the plant to generate energy even in the absence of oxygen.

In addition to its ecological and adaptive significance, Glaucous Glasswort has also been studied for its potential medicinal properties. Research has shown that the plant contains compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties could make Glaucous Glasswort a potential candidate for the development of new drugs or natural remedies.

Glaucous Glasswort is a remarkable plant that has adapted to thrive in harsh environments. Its unique physical and physiological adaptations have enabled it to play important ecological roles, as well as potentially important medicinal ones. As we continue to learn more about this plant, we may discover even more benefits and applications of its unique properties.

Glaucous Glasswort is also an important indicator species of salt marsh health. As a halophyte, it is highly sensitive to changes in salt concentrations in the soil and water. Therefore, changes in the abundance and distribution of Glaucous Glasswort populations can provide important insights into the overall health of salt marsh ecosystems.

One of the threats to Glaucous Glasswort and other salt marsh plants is invasive species. Non-native plant species that are not adapted to high salt concentrations can outcompete native species and alter the ecological balance of salt marsh ecosystems. Therefore, efforts to control the spread of invasive species are critical for the protection of Glaucous Glasswort and other native salt marsh plants.

In terms of conservation, Glaucous Glasswort and other salt marsh plants can benefit from the establishment of protected areas and the restoration of degraded salt marsh habitats. Restoration efforts can include actions such as removing invasive species, planting native species, and controlling erosion. These actions can help to create a more stable and healthy environment for Glaucous Glasswort and other salt marsh plants to thrive.

In conclusion, Glaucous Glasswort is a fascinating plant with unique adaptations that allow it to thrive in harsh environments. It plays important ecological roles as a habitat and food source for many animals, as well as a stabilizer of salt marsh soils. As we continue to face environmental challenges, protecting and conserving this and other salt marsh plants is critical for maintaining the health of coastal ecosystems.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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