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Lesser Sea-spurrey

Spergularia marina

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Caryophyllaceae (Pink)
Life Cycle:
Annual or Perennial
Maximum Size:
15 centimetres tall
Beaches, ditches, gardens, roadsides, rocky places, saltmarshes, sand dunes, seaside.

Pink, 5 petals
5 pink petals whitening towards the centre. Distinguishable from Greater Sea-spurrey in that it has longer sepals than petals, and that it bears smaller, pinker flowers.
A brown oval pod, up to 6mm long. Many-seeded.
Linear, fleshy leaves, in opposite pairs, up to 4cm long.
Other Names:
Marina Spurrey, Salt Sandspurry, Saltmarsh Sand Spurry, Sea Sand-spurrey.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Spergularia marina, also known as "sea sand-spurrey" or "Marina spurrey" is a species of flowering plant in the Caryophyllaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and it is a annual or perennial herbaceous plant. It has small, linear leaves and produces small white or pink flowers. It prefers sandy soils and it is tolerant to drought and salt conditions, it can be found in coastal dunes and sandy beaches, it can be also used as a ornamental plant in rock gardens, and coastal gardens. It is also known for its medicinal properties, it has been traditionally used for wound healing and for treating respiratory conditions.


The Lesser Sea-spurrey (Spergularia marina) is a plant that is commonly found along the shorelines of saltwater bodies, such as estuaries, tidal creeks, and rocky shores. It is a small, hardy plant with succulent leaves that can withstand the harsh conditions of its coastal environment. In this blog post, we will explore some of the key features and characteristics of this fascinating plant.

Appearance and Distribution

The Lesser Sea-spurrey is a small, annual herb that typically grows to a height of 5-15 cm. It has thin, wiry stems that can grow up to 30 cm in length and are usually reddish-brown or green in color. The leaves of the plant are fleshy, narrow and linear in shape and are arranged alternately along the stem. The flowers are small and white, with five petals and ten stamens. The plant blooms from June to September and produces small, elongated seed capsules.

The Lesser Sea-spurrey is native to the coasts of Europe, North Africa, and western Asia. It has been introduced to North America, where it is found along the coasts of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. The plant grows in a variety of coastal habitats, including salt marshes, sand dunes, and rocky shores.

Ecological Importance

The Lesser Sea-spurrey is an important plant in coastal ecosystems. It is one of the few plant species that can tolerate the high salinity of saltwater environments, making it an important stabilizer of coastal dunes and shorelines. The plant also provides a valuable source of food for a variety of insects, including beetles, flies, and bees.

In addition to its ecological importance, the Lesser Sea-spurrey has also been used in traditional medicine. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory infections. It has also been used as a diuretic and as a treatment for rheumatism.

Threats and Conservation

Despite its hardiness, the Lesser Sea-spurrey is still vulnerable to a number of threats. Habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change are all major threats to the plant's survival. Invasive species, such as the Japanese knotweed, can also outcompete the Lesser Sea-spurrey and reduce its numbers.

Conservation efforts are underway to protect the plant and its habitat. In the United States, the plant is listed as a species of special concern in Maine and Rhode Island. In the United Kingdom, it is listed as a priority species for conservation.

Lesser Sea-spurrey is a fascinating and important plant in coastal ecosystems. Its ability to thrive in saltwater environments makes it a valuable stabilizer of coastal dunes and shorelines, while also providing a source of food for a variety of insects. As with many species, the Lesser Sea-spurrey faces a number of threats, but conservation efforts are helping to ensure that this hardy plant continues to thrive along our coastlines for years to come.

Uses of Lesser Sea-spurrey

In addition to its traditional medicinal uses, the Lesser Sea-spurrey has also been used as a food source. The young leaves of the plant can be used in salads, while the seeds can be ground into a flour and used in bread-making. The plant is also used as a source of green dye.

Cultural Significance

The Lesser Sea-spurrey has played a role in the folklore and traditions of coastal communities. In some cultures, the plant is associated with love and fertility, and is believed to have the power to protect against evil spirits. In Scotland, the plant was traditionally used in a love divination ritual, where the person seeking love would pull the plant from the ground and recite a rhyme.

Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts for the Lesser Sea-spurrey focus on protecting the plant's habitat and preventing the spread of invasive species. In the United States, conservation efforts include monitoring populations, restoring degraded habitats, and educating the public about the importance of the plant. In the United Kingdom, conservation efforts include habitat restoration, seed collection and storage, and research into the plant's ecology.


The Lesser Sea-spurrey is a small, hardy plant with a range of ecological and cultural significance. Its ability to thrive in saltwater environments makes it a valuable plant in coastal ecosystems, while its traditional medicinal and culinary uses highlight its importance to human cultures. Conservation efforts are essential to protecting this valuable species and ensuring its survival in the face of threats such as habitat loss, pollution, and climate change.

More Information

One interesting feature of the Lesser Sea-spurrey is its ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions. In response to fluctuating levels of saltwater, the plant can adjust the concentration of ions in its cells to maintain a balance of water and nutrients. This adaptation allows the plant to survive in areas with high levels of saltwater, where other plant species may not be able to grow.

Another interesting aspect of the Lesser Sea-spurrey is its role in coastal dune stabilization. The plant's roots help to bind sand particles together, reducing erosion and preventing the movement of sand by wind or water. This stabilizing effect is important in areas where coastal dunes are under threat from human activities such as construction, mining, or recreational use.

Finally, the Lesser Sea-spurrey is an important indicator species for the health of coastal ecosystems. Because the plant is sensitive to changes in environmental conditions, it can serve as an early warning system for pollution or other threats to the coastal environment. By monitoring the health and abundance of the plant, researchers can gain insights into the overall health of the ecosystem and take steps to protect it.

In conclusion, the Lesser Sea-spurrey is a fascinating and important plant with a range of ecological, cultural, and scientific significance. Its ability to thrive in harsh coastal environments and adapt to changing conditions makes it a valuable asset to coastal ecosystems, while its traditional uses and cultural significance highlight its importance to human societies. Through conservation efforts and scientific research, we can ensure that this remarkable plant continues to thrive and contribute to our understanding of the natural world.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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