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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pickles and cactus

I couldn't resist taking a few photos of Pickleweed (Salicornia pacifica) in the salt marsh near Doran Beach last weekend.  

But I'm not sure how to explain the range of colors in patches right next to each other.  How many different color patches do you see in the photo below?


To my eye there were at least three or four colors — red-purple (left), yellow-green (right), ashy-green (foreground), and pink (back left).  I have no idea what causes the color differences.  Elevation?  Moisture?  Salinity?  Nutrients?  Age?  Does anyone know?

Here's a close-up of the red-purple and yellow-green patches. You can see the tall, narrow, fleshy spikes.

Pickleweed is one of the dominant plants in local salt marshes.  It flowers in late summer.  If you haven't seen the flowers yet, here's a hint about what to look for:

Sometimes I think Pickleweed looks like miniature saguaro cactus!  I read that saguaro cactus grow side branches to enhance reproductive capacity (more tips = more flowers and more fruit).  Perhaps that's also true for Pickleweed?

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