Sunday, September 14, 2008

Crithmum maritimum, Rock Samphire

Crithmum maritimum, Samphire  
growing out of a rock wall in Sydney
This aromatic succulent herb is a maritime plant found on sea cliffs in England and southern Ireland as well as in Europe and the mediterranean. The spicy tasting leaves are rich in iodine and are added to salads and or can be pickled in vinegar. The name samphire is a phonetic corruption of the French herbe de St. Pierre. In Spain it is know as hinojo marino.
It is mentioned in Shakespeare's King Lear "Halfway down hangs one that gathers samphire:dreadful trade" Perhaps this is a reference to those who fell to their deaths while gathering samphire for the London markets .The market cry in Shakespeare's day was for "crest marine" as it was a popular salad and pickled item. Another common name for it was pierce stone and that is how it grows ,sending long roots down through rock crevices and growing in what seems impossible stony ground. The foliage is an attractive bluish grey colour and the jagged pattern of these leaves make it a great foliage contrast plant with rosette succulents or with Senecio serpens ,the blue chalk sticks. The flowers are interesting umbells of pale yellowish green though they do seem to attract flies to do the pollination.
2017 update: Still not widely known or used. I have a stock plant and can propagate on request.

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