Amaranthus pumilus (Seabeach Amaranth) plays an important role in dune formation acting as a “sand binder”, with a single large plant capable of creating a mini-dune up to 6 decimeters in height that contains up to 2 to 3 cubic meters of sand (USFWS 1993). It’s an annual herb with reddish-colored, prostrate stems and fleshy, spinach-green leaves. The flowers are small and inconspicuous borne in the axils of the leaves. It occurs on Atlantic barrier island dunes in the often narrow strip of sand where there is little competition from other plants and above the high tide line.
Eliminated from two-thirds of its historic range, many threats exist to the Amaranthus pumilus including construction of sea walls and dune fencing, development, heavy recreational use, and off-road vehicle traffic. It is difficult to afford protection because of the dynamic nature of the habitat and the fugitive nature of the biology of the species.
A reintroduction project is currently under way (2017) on six National Refuges (USFWS) across the species range; one each in SC and VA, two in NJ and two in MA. This is a cooperative project between the US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Refuge System and the North Carolina Botanical Garden.
The North Carolina Botanical Garden holds ex situ seed collection in it’s seed bank. Material represents 5 states and 15 distinct populations. We are so grateful to NCBG for the work they do to preserve the environmentally important Seabeach Amaranth.
The conservation experts at CPC participating institutions such as the North Carolina Botanical Garden share their in-depth conservation expertise about rare plants through CPC’s National Collection Plant Profiles.
Amaranthus pumilus photo credit: Mike Kunz