A native of Europe, North Africa and Western Asia, horned searocket (Cakile maritima) was introduced to North America in the early 1800s via ships’ ballast. This annual has since naturalized throughout most of the coastal states where it can be found growing in the sand along beaches, dunes and bluffs. Horned searocket is tolerant of sea spray and transient seawater inundation.
Also commonly called European searocket, C maritima is an aggressive spreader and sometimes is considered a noxious weed. The seed oil contains erucic acid, which can have cardiac effects on livestock.
The horned searocket stem arises from a taproot and can be erect or prostate, often branching and forming clumps or cushions. The shiny, green leaves may be tinted purple or magenta. Alternate, succulent and deeply lobed, the lower and upper leaves often have different shapes. Horned seatocket flowers have four white, lilac or purple petals.
Like other members of the Mustard Family, horned searocket fruits are siliques (capsules with two segments). The fruits are green early and turn brown and corky as they mature. This species is distinguished from other searockets by the two lateral protuberances (horns) near the base of the fruits. Horned searocket fruits float and seed are water dispersed.
Cakile, the genus name, is the Arabic name for this plant. The horned searocket species name mean “of the sea” in Latin.
Leonard and I found these horned searocket plants growing on the Dry Lagoon Beach at Humboldt Lagoons State Park in California early last May.