Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Vers. Syst. Salicorn.: 51 (1866).
Chenopodiaceae (APG: Amaranthaceae)
Arthrocnemum pachystachyum (Bunge ex Ung.-Sternb.) A.Chev. (1922), Salicornia perrieri A.Chev. (1922).
Glasswort, samphire (En). Salicorne (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Salicornia pachystachya grows along the coast of eastern Africa, from Kenya to South Africa, and of Madagascar and other African Indian Ocean islands.
Young shoots of Salicornia pachystachya are collected from the wild and eaten fresh in salads or as a garnish, pickled in vinegar, or as a cooked vegetable, similar to other Salicornia species outside Africa. The plant is also a good forage for many animals. It is said that juice of the fresh plant is an excellent diuretic.
Salicornia pachystachya is rich in salt. Formerly, the ash of Salicornia species was used for washing.
Erect, annual, glabrous herb up to 40 cm tall; stem with numerous suberect or ascending lateral branches, seemingly leafless, built up of numerous superposed, more or less tubular succulent segments, each segment at apex forming a little cup with 2 short teeth embracing the base of the next higher segment; sterile segments cylindrical, 5–10 mm × 2–4 mm, faintly keeled with lateral ridge, glaucous to brown-red; fertile segments aggregated into spikes 1–2.5 cm long at the end of stem and branches. Flowers in clusters of 3, a pair of clusters to each fertile segment, small, immersed, bisexual, protandrous; perianth tubular, minutely 3-toothed; stamens usually 2 per flower; ovary superior, 1-celled, stigma tufted, with 2–3 lobes. Fruit a nut. Seed compressed ellipsoid, c. 1.5 mm long, testa thin, membranous, minutely hairy, brown; embryo folded so that radicle and cotyledons point downward; endosperm absent.
Salicornia comprises 30–40 species, and is distributed worldwide, mostly in saline habitats along coasts. Its taxonomy is not yet well established. The delimitation of Salicornia pachystachya is disputed. Specimens growing less upright with narrower (up to 4 mm in diameter) and more tapering fruiting spikes are often considered to belong to a separate species: Salicornia perrieri A.Chev. In southern Africa flowering is from June to October, fruiting from December to January.
Salicornia pachystachya grows in salt marshes and mangrove swamps at sea -level near coasts.
Genetic resources and breeding
Salicornia pachystachya is widespread and does not seem to be in danger of genetic erosion.
Salicornia pachystachya will remain an interesting vegetable with a distinctive taste. Salicornia in general is becoming more and more appreciated in haute cuisine cooking, and there may also be an increasing demand for Salicornia pachystachya. Its nutritional composition and cultivation requirements on commercial scale deserve more investigation.
• Brenan, J.P.M., 1964. Chenopodiaceae. In: Turrill, W.B. & Milne-Redhead, E. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 26 pp.
• Brenan, J.P.M., 1988. Chenopodiaceae. In: Launert, E. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 9, part 1. Flora Zambesiaca Managing Committee, London, United Kingdom. pp. 133–161.
• Decary, R., 1946. Plantes et animaux utiles de Madagascar. Annales du Musée Colonial de Marseille, 54e année, 6e série, 4e volume, 1er et dernier fascicule. 234 pp.
• van Wyk, B.E. & Gericke, N., 2000. People’s plants: a guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 351 pp.
• Wilson, P.G., 1984. Chenopodiaceae. In: George, A.S. (Editor). Flora of Australia. Volume 4. Bureau of Flora and Fauna, Canberra. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, Australia. pp. 81–317.
• Cavaco, A., 1954. Chénopodiacées (Chenopodiaceae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), familles 66–69. Firmin-Didot et cie., Paris, France. 15 pp.
• O’Callaghan, M., 1992. The ecology and identification of the southern African Salicornieae (Chenopodiaceae). South African Journal of Botany 58(6): 430–439.
• Tölken, H.R., 1967. The species of Arthrocnemum and Salicornia (Chenopodiaceae) in southern Africa. Bothalia 9(2): 255–307.
Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Salicornia pachystachya Bunge ex Ung.-Sternb. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.