Fine Art

Batis maritima, Photo by Forest & Kim Starr, United States Geological Survey

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids II
Ordo: Brassicales

Familia: Bataceae
Genus: Batis
Species: Batis maritima

Batis maritima L., 1759

Batis americana L., Mant. Pl. 2: 499 (1771).
Batis californica Torr., Smithsonian Contr. Knowl. 6: 8 (1854).

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Northern America
Alabama; Aruba; Bahamas; Belize; Brazil Northeast; Brazil Southeast; California; Cayman Is.; Colombia; Cuba; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; Florida; Mexico Gulf; Mexico Northeast; Mexico Northwest; Mexico Southeast; Mexico Southwest
Continental: Southern America
French Guiana; Galpagos; Georgia; Guyana; Haiti; Hawaii; Honduras; Jamaica; Leeward Is.; Louisiana; Netherlands Antilles; Nicaragua; North Carolina; Peru; Puerto Rico; South Carolina; Southwest Caribbean; Suriname; Texas; Trinidad-Tobago; Turks-Caicos Is.; Venezuela; Windward Is.

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition

Linnaeus, C., 1759. Syst. Nat. ed. 10, 2:1289.


Govaerts, R. et al. 2019. Batis maritima in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2019 Apr. 11. Reference page.
Hassler, M. 2019. Batis maritima. World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World In: Roskovh, Y., Abucay, L., Orrell, T., Nicolson, D., Bailly, N., Kirk, P., Bourgoin, T., DeWalt, R.E., Decock, W., De Wever, A., Nieukerken, E. van, Zarucchi, J. & Penev, L., eds. 2019. Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life. Published online. Accessed: 2019 Apr. 11. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2019. Batis maritima. Published online. Accessed: Apr. 11 2019.
The Plant List 2013. Batis maritima in The Plant List Version 1.1. Published online. Accessed: 2019 Apr. 11. 2019. Batis maritima. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published online. Accessed: 11 Apr. 2019.
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Batis maritima in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 07-Oct-06.

Vernacular names
English: turtleweed

Batis maritima, the saltwort or beachwort (also known as turtleweed, pickleweed, barilla, planta de sal, camphire, herbe-à-crâbes, and akulikuli-kai[2]), is a halophyte. It is a C3-plant, long-lived perennial, dioecious, succulent shrub. The plant forms dense colonies in salt marshes, brackish marshes, and mangrove swamps and frequently is found on the margins of saltpans and wind-tidal flats.[3] Batis maritima is a pioneer plant, covers quickly areas where hurricanes have destroyed the natural vegetation.

So far, Batis maritima has not been used commercially for food production but the seeds have a high oil content with high nutritional value.[4]


Plants are dioecious, perennial sub shrubs 0.1–1.5 m tall and form dense colonies. The succulent leaves are opposite and sessile. The small, white flowers of Batis maritima are self-incompatible and the morphology of the pollen indicate that the plant is wind pollinated.[3]

Seeds are 1.1 mm long and 0.8 mm wide and have an extreme low weight (0.5 mg/seed).[4] They have a smooth, very dark and hard walled coating[4] and an elongated lenticular shape. It has been reported that they have germinated after several months of floating in seawater.[4]

The primary root branches early in development and is unbranched until the shoot is 10 cm or more in height.[5]
Geographical distribution and environmental requirements

Batis maritima occurs on both Atlantic and Pacific tropical coasts of the three Americas and the Caribbean Islands.[5] The northern distribution (up to 33º N latitude) appears to be influenced by frost events.[3] Many sites where maritime saltwort occurs are subject to severe tropical storms.[3] It typically occurs at elevations less than 1.0 m above mean sea level and at sites where salinity ranges from 18 to 50 ppt (muddy tidal banks, mangrove swamps, salt-marshes, mud and salt flats).[3] It also grows in soils without salt but is vulnerable to competition from nonhalophytes.[2] Batis maritima occurs in sites normally subject to minimal sand coverage.[3] Wrack deposits seem to stimulate growth.[3] Maritime saltwort has been reported as an invasive species in Hawaii, where it displaces native species.

The ability to produce adequate levels of biomass over a wide environmental range have been well documented.[6] The plant is not seriously affected by insects, disease, or grazing, but the shoots cannot bear sand coverage.
Product use

Leaves occasionally are added to salads in Puerto Rico, it has also been used as a pot herb, puree and pickle [1] . The seeds are added to salads, they can be toasted or “popped” like corn. The Comcáac used the roots to sweeten coffee before they had access to sugar.[7] The yellow to golden hued meal is used for food.[4] Due to its high oil content it has the potential to be an oil crop. Batis maritima has been used in folk herbal medicine in Puerto Rico to treat gout, eczema, psoriasis, rheumatism, blood disorders, and thyroid disorders.[8]
content amount
carbs 46,5 %
fructose 0.1 %
glucose 0.03 %
sucrose 1.20 %
fat 25 %
protein 17.3 %
water 7.3 %
calcium 1600 ppm
iron 259 ppm
magnesium 4200 ppm
phosphorus 8400 ppm
potassium 8500 ppm
sodium 500 ppm

Main component of seeds are carbohydrates.[4] The extremely small starch granule size, could be useful for other food and non food applications, which require small starch granules. Overall low values of soluble sugars, especially sucrose, are found.[4] The seed contains high levels of crude protein.[4] The vast majority of its storage proteins are of the aqueous soluble form.[4] It is also a good source of the essential amino acids lysine and methionine which are usually the limiting amino acids found in most studied cereal grains.[4] Seeds contain substantial amounts of oil (25.0%) similar to those found in safflower, cottonseed and sunflower.[4] With a linoleic acid C 18:2 content of 73% it has one of the highest C18:2 contents of any oil known.[4] It also rich in tocopherols, particularly a-tocopherol 0.07% (700 mg/kg) and shows high levels of phytosterol 2427.4 mg/kg.[4] Those compounds are considered to be very healthy. The seeds are rich in elements like phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and iron (Fe).[4] Examination of the seed for sodium (Na) did not reveal any elevated accumulation of this element (i.e., 500 ppm) which would be of nutritional concern.[4]

It is recognized as a major colonizer after mangroves are destroyed by hurricanes.[2] Although it is not a water plant, it can endure brief flooding and long periods of waterlogged soils.[9] Saltwort grows slowly in soils with high salt concentrations but it suffers little competition from other plants.[2] The species manages salts by sequestering them in cell vacuoles and eventually shedding the leaves.[3] Obligate-symbiotic vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae (VAM) that colonize the roots indirectly reduce water stress and improve phosphate nutrition.[10]

"The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species".
Francis, John K. (2004). Francis, John K. (ed.). Wildland Shrubs of the United States and Its Territories: Thamnic Descriptions: Volume 1 (PDF). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. pp. 107–109.
Lonard, Robert I.; Judd, Frank W.; Stalter, Richard (2011). "The Biological Flora of Coastal Dunes and Wetlands: Batis maritima C. Linnaeus". Journal of Coastal Research. 27 (3): 441–449. doi:10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-10-00142.1. S2CID 85230854.
Massimo F. Marcone, 2003. "Batis maritima (Saltwort/Beachwort): a nutritious, halophytic, seed bearings, perennial shrub for cultivation and recovery of otherwise unproductive agricultural land affected by salinity" Food Research International 36:123-130
Duncan S. Johnson, 1935. The Development of the Shoot, Male Flower and Seedling of Batis maritima L. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 62:19-32
Haddad, and Maher M. Noaman, 2001. "Leaching requirement and salinity threshold for the yield and agronomic characteristics of halophytes under salt stress" El-Journal of Arid Environments 49:865–874
Wilder, B. T.; Felger, R. S.; Romero-Morales, H. (2008). "Succulent plant diversity of the Sonoran Island, Gulf of California, Mexico". Haseltonia. 14: 127–160. doi:10.2985/1070-0048-14.1.127. S2CID 85805703.
H. A. Liogier, (1990),"Plantas medicinales de Puerto Rico y del Caribe" Iberoamericana de Ediciones, 566 pp.
G. Neson, 1965. The shrubs and woody vines of Florida Pineapple Press 391, pp.
R. E. Koske, 1988. "Vesicular-Arbuscular Myccorrhizae of some Hawaiian USA Dune Plants Pacific Science 42:217-229

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