In Touch: Estuary Seablite
Gardening with a rare and endangered plant
Today, The Green Dispatch starts a new series: In Touch. With these Dispatches I want to explain my work or relationship with a plant or animal that deserves recognition, either because it is rare or endangered or because it is significant, such as being a keystone species.
Gardening with estuary seablite
I squeeze the pot in my hands, the earth of the rootball giving way as I rotate and push on the sides. Turned upside down, the plant and rootball are easily released from the pot. I tease out the roots of the rootball, the ones that have swirled up against the sides of the pot, and place the rootball into the hole I’ve just dug. I gather some loose dirt to fill in the hole, making sure that I leave a little moat around the plant to direct water to the roots.
I’ve just planted estuary seablite (Suaeda esteroa), a very rare plant that only grows in estuaries and salt marshes along the coast of southern California and northern Baja, Mexico, so rare that the California Native Plant Society considers estuary seablite to fall under the protection of the California Endangered Species Act. The map below displays the relatively few places that this succulent can be found in California. (I have no information on its location in Baja.)
Planting the seablite is fairly mundane, like planting any other plant. Dig a hole and put the plant in it. But it’s also a little odd and slightly thrilling, like finding out that the person in front of you in line for fish tacos is George Clooney or Sarah Jessica Parker. And I was able to buy this plant at a nursery, with it costing no more than any other plant, even though it is rare and endangered. You would think that I would have had to sign a waver or recite something along the lines of a loyalty oath “I hereby give my assurance to the state of California that, to the best of my abilities, I will properly plant, weed, and water this precious plant, and do all I can to ensure its safety and survival, so help me God.” Something like that. But I just picked up the seablite, along with all the other plants I ordered, and tossed them all in my work truck.
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