Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Carolina Grasswort - Lilaeopsis carolinensis   Coulter & Rose
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Section 6 » Order Apiales » Family Apiaceae
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AuthorCoulter & Rose
DistributionPresent along most of the tidal shores in the northern half of the coast, to Cape Hatteras; however, seemingly absent southward except in the Cape Fear area of New Hanover and Brunswick counties.

This is a rather scarce coastal species of the South, ranging from southeastern VA to eastern TX, but found mostly along the coasts of NC and SC, and from western FL to eastern TX. It also occurs in South America.
AbundanceRare to locally fairly common in parts of the northern coastal region; very rare southward, only known from the southeastern corner. This is a Significantly Rare species. Based on the NCNHP records, there are around 25 records, with about 18 still extant. This suggests more a State Rank of S2 than S3, but it can be somewhat weedy in some places and occurs in large populations where present. Thus, a rank of S2S3 might be more accurate, especially as few people survey for marsh plants these day in the northern coastal region.
HabitatThis species is a wetland one of brackish to nearly fresh waters. It grows in freshwater marshes, shores of coastal ponds, margins of bays and sounds, interdune ponds, and even in ditches, where weedy.
PhenologyBlooms in May and June, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a truly odd-looking plant, somewhat reminiscent of a green-colored glasswort (Salicornia spp.). It has a prostrate stem, creeping along the ground. At each of the many nodes, the plant roots, and it also has a pair of fleshy, hollow, rounded or tubular "leaves", yellow green, erect and to about 8-9" tall, with a spatulate tip (flattened and spoon-like); there are 7-15 transverse septa on each leaf. At the nodes also is a single umbel, on a vertical stalk only about 1.5-2" tall, much shorter than the leaves. Only 5-15 tiny white flowers are in each umbel. The other member of the genus, the native L. chinensis (despite the name), has the leaves only about 2" tall, dark green and evergreen-looking, somewhat flat in cross-section and with a rounded tip. Its flower cluster is on a stalk taller than the height of the leaves. More than likely, you won't see the flower clusters, and they might not even be there.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Carolina Lilaeopsis
State RankS3 [S2S3]
Global RankG3G5
State StatusSR-O
US Status
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