Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Salt-marsh Pink - Sabatia stellaris   Pursh
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Section 6 » Order Gentianales » Family Gentianaceae
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AuthorPursh
DistributionStrictly coastal, mostly in tidal areas.

This is essentially a tidal species of broad distribution, ranging from MA down the Atlantic Coast to southern FL, and around the Gulf Coast to LA.
AbundanceFrequent to common in most of its NC range, though slightly less numerous farther from inlets, such as in Albemarle Sound or the inner reaches of Pamlico Sound. Despite it being collected from only 10 counties, it deserves a State Rank of S4, as its tidal habitats remain common, even in the potential face of rising sea levels.
HabitatThis species is found mostly in brackish marshes, but with a broad range in salinity, from fairly salty to oligohaline farther away from inlets. At Buxton (Dare County), Ocracoke (Hyde County), and other places it also occurs in maritime wet grasslands.
PhenologyBlooms from July to October, and fruits from August to November.
IdentificationThis is one of the most attractive of the relatively few wildflowers found in brackish marshes, and thus is easily identified. It is erect and reaches about 1.5-2' tall, with a few branches, and scattered paired leaves. These leaves are mostly lanceolate, with pointed tips; they each are about 1.5" long. The inflorescence is a panicle, rather open, with bright pink to rose-pink flowers atop each branch and stem. Each flower has 5 petals and the spread flower is about 1.3" across, with a yellow band at the base of each petal and with a red band separating the yellow from the pink of the rest of the petal. As with a few other Sabatia species, the pink of the petals pales to white near the base, to produce 4-colored petals -- pink, white, red, and yellow in the center. S. campanulata is somewhat similar overall, but it does not grow in tidal marshes, but in savannas; and that species has very long sepals (hidden under the petals) that nearly reach the tips of the petals, whereas the sepals in S. stellaris only reach about 2/3 to at most 3/4 the length of the petals. You should have no trouble finding this species in most any brackish marsh near an inlet, better where a brackish marsh transitions to a salt marsh.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Annual Sea-pink, Marsh Pink, Rose of Plymouth
State RankS3S4 [S4]
Global RankG5
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