Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Shoreline Sea-purslane - Sesuvium portulacastrum   (L.) L.
Members of Aizoaceae:
Members of Sesuvium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Caryophyllales » Family Aizoaceae
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Author(L.) L.
DistributionStrictly coastal, ranging north to the northern portion of coastal Dare County.

This species ranges from eastern NC south to southern FL and around the coast to southern TX.
AbundanceGenerally rare along the coast, but somewhat ephemeral in occurrence from year to year, despite it being a perennial species. This is now a State Endangered species. Their State Rank of S1 seems conservative, and S2 is probably more realistic, as few people either bother to collect it, or most sites are in protected national seashores, state parks, and other similar places, where permits are needed to collect plants.
HabitatThis is a species of sand flats, beaches, dune swales, edges and drawdowns of coastal ponds and impoundments, and other sunny and open coastal sites.
See also Habitat Account for Ocean Beaches and Sand Flats
PhenologyBlooms from May to frost, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a prostrate species, rooting at the nodes, and forming mats. The opposite leaves are fleshy, oblanceolate to spatulate, about 1-inch long and about 1/3-inch wide. The flowers are singly in leaf axils, with 5 bright pink triangular sepals, but no petals. The spread flower is about 1/3-inch across. This species is similar to S. maritimum, but that one, which grows in similar coastal habitats, has sessile flowers (as opposed to flowers on short stalks in S. portulacastrum), a somewhat erect to leaning stem, and the stem does not root at nodes (and thus does not form mats on sand or mud). S. maritimum usually has a white, or pale pink flower, not as richly colored as that of S. portulacastrum. That species also has 2-3 styles per flower, as opposed to 5 styles in S. portulacastrum. Take great care in separating these two, as each is scarce to rare in NC.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Large Sea-purslane
State RankS1 [S2]
Global RankG5
State StatusE
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empFACW link
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