Seaside Amaranth Amaranthus pumilus RafinesqueG2 (Globally rare)  -  Threatened (Federal)  -  Endangered (MD)  -  S1 (Highly state rare)  -  Worcester only    Synonyms: Seabeach Amaranth.
Kingdom Plantae   >   Division Tracheophyta   >   Class Magnoliopsida   >   Order Caryophyllales   >   Family Amaranthaceae   >   Genus Amaranthus   

Status:

Seaside Amaranth (also called Seabeach Amaranth), a native species, is Endangered in Maryland. With fewer than 50 populations worldwide, it is globally and federally Threatened, as well. In the United States, it grows in beach habitat along the Atlantic Ocean. This annual plant forms clumps just above the high-water mark at the base of sand dunes, in sparsely vegetated, low-diversity habitat. It once ranged from southern Massachusetts to South Carolina, but has been eliminated from 2/3 of its former range. In the late 1960s, Seaside Amaranth disappeared from Maryland's barrier islands, but now Maryland is one of a few states where it is growing, with an assist from park biologists at Assateague Island National Seashore. It also has been reintroduced in Massachusetts and North Carolina. The plant seems to need extensive areas of naturally dynamic, dune and barrier-island habitat, where, as a prolifically seeding annual, it can spread its seeds widely and "move" around from year to year as a "fugitive" species in the landscape, colonizing appropriate habitat as it becomes available.

According to an undated brochure, "Seabeach Amaranth Amaranthus pumilus", published by the National Park Service/Assateague Island National Seashore, a park biologist discovered a single plant on Assateague in 1998. "This occasion marked the first time in over 30 years that amaranth had been observed on the island. By 2000 a total of 7 wild plants were discovered. With these 7 plants, the National Park Service, along with other State and Federal agencies, began the hard work of trying to restore a viable population of this threatened species to its native habitat on Assateague. Between 2000 and 2002, offspring from the original plants were planted at many locations along the Maryland portion of the island. Since then, surveys have estimated that the annual amaranth population on Assateague has ranged between 500 and 600 plants. Even with a helping hand, survival is not a sure thing. Amaranth must compete with other plants for space, sunlight, water and soil nutrients. Therefore, plants depend upon frequent storm surges to reduce competition and create new unoccupied habitat." Other threats to Seaside Amaranth include fencing and sea-wall construction, development, heavy beach recreational use, over-sand vehicle traffic (especially detrimental from June through September, the plant’s growing season), and grazing by deer and feral horses. The fugitive nature of the plant makes it difficult to protect, but each year Assateague staff place wire mesh cages around some plants. On Assateague, there are some other state or federally listed species requiring similar habitat, including tiger beetles, piping plovers, and seaside knotweed.

Description:

The stems are fleshy and pinkish-red or red, with small rounded leaves. Inconspicuous flowers and fruits are borne in clusters along the stems. The seeds are tiny, and enormous quantities are produced that increase the odds that new populations will be established each year.

Germination occurs from April to July, and the small unbranched sprig that develops soon branches into a clump that commonly reaches 30 cm in diameter and sometimes a meter or more (see U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, undated brochure titled "Seabeach Amaranth Amaranthus pumilus").

There are 18 records in the project database.

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Seaside Amaranth growing on Assateague Island, Worcester Co., Maryland (8/9/2012). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

Seaside Amaranth in Worcester Co., Maryland (7/26/). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

Seaside Amaranth in Worcester Co., Maryland (7/26/2015). (c) Mike Ostrowski, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA). Photo by Mike Ostrowski. (MBP list)

Seaside Amaranth in Worcester Co., Maryland (8/2/2007). Photo by Sue Muller. (MBP list)

Seaside Amaranth in Worcester Co., Maryland (8/3/2007). Photo by Sue Muller. (MBP list)

Seaside Amaranth in Worcester Co., Maryland (7/17/2018). Photo by Sue Muller. (MBP list)

Seaside Amaranth on Assateague Island, Maryland (8/2/2011). Photo by Mike Burchett. (MBP list)

Seaside Amaranth in Worcester Co., Maryland (12/10/2014). Flooded after recent strong wind and tide. Photo by Mike Burchett. (MBP list)

Seaside Amaranth on Assateague Island, Maryland (8/2/2011). The cages protect these extremely rare plants from foraging feral horses. Photo by Mike Burchett. (MBP list)

Seaside Amaranth in Worcester Co., Maryland (8/9/2017). Photo by Sue Muller. (MBP list)


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