Plant of the day: alkali heath

Along the edge of a lagoon is a small purple flower perched atop dusky green leaves. This is alkali heath, or Frankenia salinaIt’s mainly found in California, though it also can be found occasionally in other parts of the US.

This plant often grows in dense clumps, but it is not very tall. I have only seen it growing to about a foot tall, and that is when it was using other plants for support.

Because it grows in areas that are often submerged by the tides, alkalai heath has the ability to withstand large amounts of salty water–unlike most plants. The technical description for this talent is “halophytic”, and the community of plants that shares this trait is comparatively small. With its five purple petals, comparatively long stamens, pale green leaves and ability to live in salty marshes, alkalai heath is fairly unique to identify.

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