Many thanks to Pete Veilleux (aka firstname.lastname@example.org@Flickr) for this photo of Salicornia bigelovii! Pete took this photo of pickleweed (commonly known as annual glasswort, dwarf glasswort, dwarf saltwort, as well as sea asparagus) in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico back in April, 2009 and uploaded it to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool.
Salicornia bigelovii, of the Amaranthaceae, is an annual halophyte. This succulent species has jointed stems that are initially green, age to yellowish-orange, and mature to dark red. Perfect flowers are sunken in cavities and are arranged in a three-flowered cymose pattern, with the middle flower being slightly elevated in comparison to the other two lateral flowers. The cymes are held in a terminal spike and later bear seeds that lack endosperm and contain a peripheral, bent embryo.
Pickleweed occurs on temperate, subtropical, and tropical coastlines of the New World. It ranges from coastal Nova Scotia, Canada, south to Florida and along the Gulf Coast to the Yucatan Peninsula to the Bahamas and West Indies. It also occurs along the Pacific coast in California, northern Baja California, and Sonora. Salicornia bigelovii tends to grow on saturated substrates of quartz sand, or sand and shell deposits and tolerates salinities up to 120 parts per thousand (to read more about how this species is able to grow in such saline environments, here is a link provided in a previous Botany Photo of the Day entry on Salicornia virginica and its parasite Cuscuta salina).
Salicornia bigelovii is a salt-tolerant terrestrial vascular plant with potential as a crop plant for arid, coastal, hyper-saline sites. It has been successfully cultivated, and can be irrigated with salt water. The seeds of this species contain 31% protein, 5-7% fibre, and 5-7% ash. The seeds also contain good-quality oil, and have up to 26-33% oil (exceeding oil seed levels of both cotton at 15-24%, and soybean at 17-21%). It is suggested that the seeds could be used for cooking oil, biofuels, and as supplements to poultry and fish diets. Each pickleweed plant can produce 250-640 seeds per plant, and when supplemental nitrogen was added to plots in a California salt marsh, seed production increased from 200000 seeds/m2 in unfertilized plots to 1 million seeds/m2. Some also note that the whole plant could be used for livestock forage, and as a biofilter for removing nutrients from saline aquaculture wastewater. Fresh and dried whole plants are also edible. Fresh shoots have been marketed in Europe and California as a garnish for salads, however the shoots only have a short shelf life of ~6 days (see: Falasca, S. Ulberich A. Acevedo, A. 2014. Identification of Argentinian saline drylands suitable for growing Salicornia bigelovii for bioenergy. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. 39:8682-8689; Lonard, I. Judd, F., Stalter, R. 2012. The biological flora of coastal dunes and wetlands: Salicornia bigelovii J. Torrey. Journal of Coastal Research. 28(3):719-725).