Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Seaside Heliotrope - Heliotropium curassavicum   L.
Members of Heliotropium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Lamiales » Family Heliotropiaceae
DistributionKnown only from two coastal sites -- Ocracoke Island in Hyde County (1931) and Shackleford Banks in Carteret County (1917).

This is mainly a species of the Old World, ranging into the Western states. The range in the East is only from DE south to FL and to TX and into the Tropics. Some references even question whether it is native in the eastern states.
AbundanceOf historical occurrence in NC. The Hyde County specimen is from 1931, and the Carteret specimen is from 1917. It is considered as Significantly Rare, with a State Rank of SH. Recent botanical work (since the 1990s) on the Outer Banks has failed to relocate this species.
HabitatThis is a maritime species, of tidal shores, tidal flats, and edges of brackish marshes.
PhenologyBlooms from June to September, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a smooth, succulent herb, prostrate to ascending and reaching about 1 foot tall; where it occurs, it usually is found in dense stands. It has a few ascending stem leaves, elliptical and about 2 inches long. There are several curled flower stalks in helicoid cymes, at the ends of branches. The flowers are densely packed along the stalks, white or slightly tinged with light blue, and a spread of about 1/4-inch across, with 5 spreading petals. If seen in bloom, it would be very hard to overlook, as the curved white flower clusters are quite showy. The other three Heliotropium species in NC grow in waste places, or at least away from coastal shores and marshes. It is a shame that such a distinctive species is now of historical occurrence in the state, but it still should be searched for, as suitable habitat is still common.
Taxonomic CommentsThe taxon in NC is the nominate one -- H. curassavicum var. curassavicum.

Other Common Name(s)Salt Heliotrope
State RankSH
Global RankG5
State Status[SR-P]
US Status
USACE-agcpOBL link
USACE-empOBL link
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B.A. SorriePhoto taken at coast of northern Chile, 2016. Photo_non_NC
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