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Batis maritima

http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?
stat=BROWSE&query_src=photos_flora_sci&where-genre=Plant&wheretaxon=Batis+maritima&title_tag=Batis+maritima

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http://www.backyardnature.net/yucatan/saltwort.htm

from the October 26, 2014 Newsletter issued from Ro Lagartos, on the north-central
coast of Yucatn, MXICO
SALTWORT
In mud at the very edge of standing, salty water in the mangroves often there's a much

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branching, woody-stemmed bush about two feet high (60cm) bearing short, slender, succulent
leaves -- and nowadays pea-sized, yellowish fruits -- as seen above.
In certain mudflats where water stands at high tide or after rains, this bush forms dense, onespecies colonies, and it's very common nearly everyplace where saltwater meets mud. But,
what wildflower or bush displays such a combination of succulent leaves and fruits? The
succulent leaves could belong to the North's rock-loving stonecrops, genus Sedum, as you can
see below:

However, the fruits are unlike anything Northerners are likely to find in woods and fields, like
little yellow-green potatoes with "eyes" irregularly scattered across their asymmetrical forms,
as shown below:

The fruit's irregular lumpiness can be explained by its technically being considered a
"drupaceous syncarps." The word drupaceous means "like a drupe," and a drupe is a fruit such
as a peach, with a fleshy covering over a hard seed or pit that doesn't split open at maturity.

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Syncarps are "multiple fruits" derived from clusters of individual fruits that as they mature and
enlarge merge with one another to form a single larger, fruit-like item, such as a pineapple,
mulberry or Osage-orange. On our plant's multiple fruits, each thing looking like a potato's eye
is the remnant of a calyx and sexual parts of a single flower. Each flower's enlarging fruits have
fused so completely that there's little indication that it all started out as a cluster of flower
ovaries.
The reason that this combination of having multiple-type fruits on a bush with succulent,
stonecrop-like leaves doesn't register in the minds of temperate-zone plant fanciers is that this
plant is a member of a plant family, the Bataceae, whose members only show up along the
coasts of tropical and subtropical lands. The Bataceae family is so peculiar that it contains only
one genus, the genus Batis, and in Batis there are only two species, of which our mangrovemud-loving shrub is one. It's BATIS MARITIMA, which goes by several English names, including
Saltwort, Beachwort, Turtleweed, and Pickleweed. It's distributed coastally from the Carolinas
and southern California south to northern South America and throughout the Caribbean area,
plus some Pacific islands, including Hawaii, where it's thought to have been introduced.
Saltwort is extraordinarily tolerant of very high salinity and can survive being covered by water
for long periods. These adaptations enable it to be very important ecologically when it becomes
a major colonizer after mangroves are destroyed by hurricanes. It grows slowly in soils with
high salt concentrations but suffers little competition from other plants. It deals with very salty
water by "sequestering," or setting salt aside, in its cells' vacuoles, and eventually shedding
the leaves when their salt content reaches a certain level.
It's also been found that Saltwort roots are colonized by a certain kind of fungus technically
referred to as a "vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhiza." This relationship indirectly reduces water
stress on the plant, and improves phosphate nutrition. The term vesicular-arbuscular refers to
a kind of mycorrhiza in which the fungal hyphae penetrate the cortical (bark) cells of the roots
of a vascular plant.
Not only does Saltwort perform the important job of occupying and thus stabilizing muddy
areas that are so salty and waterlogged that other plants can't live there, but also their
succulent, salty leaves are nice to nibble on. Sometimes folks sprinkle them in salads, and in
some places even cook them as greens in pots, or serve them up pureed or pickled.
In Puerto Rico, traditionally it's been used in folk herbal medicine to treat gout, eczema,
psoriasis, rheumatism, blood disorders, and thyroid disorders.
This homely looking little bush living in salty mud is worth knowing and tipping one's hat to.
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Bryson, S.*, Fong, P. M.
FACILITATION BECOMES INHIBITION UNDER EXTREMELY STRESSFUL CONDITIONS
University of California Los Angeles
The direction of ecological interactions depends on stress. While studies have documented
shifts towards positive
interactions when stressed, little research has addressed how interactions change under
extremely stressful
conditions. The upper Mediterranean-climate salt marsh is a patchwork of two alternative
stable states, the
hypersaline vegetated marsh and the barely habitable ultrahypersaline salt pannes. Batis
maritima is an earlycolonizing

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plants shown to ameliorate soil salinities. We hypothesized: 1. Batis facilitates revegetation in


the
vegetated marsh, and, 2. the Batis facilitation is diminished in the salt pannes. We predicted
that, even with soil amelioration, salinities are too high in the pannes to promote growth. We
conducted two experiments to examine effects of Batis on vegetation colonizing rates at Mugu
Lagoon in Southern California. Marsh plots were cleared into 3 treatments: Batis naturally
present, Batis naturally absent, and Batis removed (n=5). Along panne margins we created
plots with Batis naturally present, Batis naturally absent, Batis removed, and Batis mimic (nylon
rope)
(n = 10). Vegetation growth rates and soil salinity were monitored for two years. In the marsh,
Batis present
treatments had the highest revegetation rates, indicating facilitation. In the pannes Batis
present and Batis mimic
treatments had the lowest vegetation growth rates, suggesting inhibition. These experiments
provide an example
of how interactions change under extremely stressful regimes- documenting a loss of an
important facilitation. For
successful conservation efforts shifting interactions will have to be considered as some may be
altered by
increased stress.
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