Sea Pink

It is interesting how one thing can lead to another. I got far from the subject of botany while researching the meaning of Armeria, the genus of today’s wildflower, sea pink. Armeria is the Latinized French word “armoires”, a cluster-headed dianthus. A dianthus is a carnation or pink. And pink is an ornamental opening in muslin through which the color of an Elizabethan dress would show. Dianthus flowers supposedly resemble the pinks in an Elizabethan dress. Going back to the 1300s, pink meant to pierce, stab or make holes in. A pink was created by making a hole in the outer layer of a dress. Then there are pinking shears, those scissors with sawtoothed instead of straight blades. Looking up the etymology of pinking shears, the suggestion is that they get their name because the resulting cut looks like the scalloped edge of carnation (or pink) petals. Confusing, but all interconnected! The species designation, maritima, is simple as it refers to the ocean or sea.

A sea pink (also commonly called a thrift – I am not getting into that meaning) is a perennial native with a circumpolar Arctic distribution. Here in the western United States it occurs as far south as Central California. Sea pinks are also common in Europe. This member of the Leadwort Family (Plumbaginaceae) inhabits coastal grassland and bluffs up to about 800 feet and occasionally is found somewhat inland along riverbanks.

Sea pinks (Armeria maritima) arise from a taproot and branching stem-base. They spread by creeping underground stems. The long, narrow, hairless leaves with smooth margins form a dense basal rosette.

The pink to lavender flowers are borne in a compact, rounded cluster at the tip of leafless stems. Around the flower cluster is a papery bract. The sepals are fused into a pinkish, translucent, papery, five-lobed cone. The five flower petals are fused at the base and surround the five stamens and a superior ovary.

Sea pink fruits are small, nut-like bladders enclosed by the dry sepals. The fruit consists of one chamber and one seed.

Leonard and I found these sea pinks on Endert’s Beach near Crescent City CA in June.

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1 Response to Sea Pink

  1. tonytomeo says:

    I remember this one growing wild on the cliffs at the beach in Montara in San Mateo County. However, I am told that it is not native there.

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