CPC Plant Profile: Seabeach Amaranth
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Plant Profile

Seabeach Amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus)

Photo Credit: Mike Kunz
Description
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Threatened
  • Family: Amaranthaceae
  • State: RI, SC, VA, CT, DE, MA, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA
  • Nature Serve ID: 141860
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/10/1987

Amaranthus pumilus (Seabeach amaranth) is 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. Often referred to as a fugitive annual, this species needs large areas of naturally dynamic islands to ensure long term survival.  A. pumilus populations are known to fluctuate in size and location as new habitat is created by tides, wind and storms and as old habitat is lost to succession or destroyed. This species is threatened by development, sea level rise, beach driving, recreational use, and beach stabilization (jetties, rock wall, fencing, etc.). It is also intolerant to salt water exposure and individuals are often lost after storm surge and overwash events. A. pumilus currently has fewer and likely smaller occurrences throughout its range (current or historic) than what is known to have occurred in the past.

Participating Institutions
Updates
Center for Plant Conservation
  • 08/17/2021
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

In 2021, CPC contracted North Carolina Botanical Garden to recollect seed from a population currently held in long term orthodox seed storage as part of an IMLS-funded seed longevity experiment. The National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation will evaluate how germination tested viability and RNA Integrity of seed lots decline over time in storage.

  • 10/13/2020
  • Demographic Research

At the time of listing, this species was known from 13 populations in NY, 34 populations in NC and 8 populations in SC (USFWS 1993). There are currently populations in NY, NJ, DE, MD, VA, NC and SC. Between 1999 and 2015, A. pumilus experienced a 98.5% decline in the number of individuals found range-wide (Dale Suiter, USFWS, personal communication).

  • 10/13/2020
  • Reintroduction

Seeds are periodically added to known populations on beaches in Delaware by Bill McAvoy (Botanist, Wildlife Species Conservation and Research Program).

  • 10/13/2020
  • Reintroduction

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.

  • 10/13/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

The North Carolina Botanical Garden holds ex situ seed collection is it's seed bank. Material represents 5 states and 15 distinct populations.

  • 10/13/2020
  • Seed Collection

The North Carolina Botanical Garden holds ex situ seed collection is it's seed bank. Material represents 5 states and 15 distinct populations.

Mike Kunz
  • 01/09/2018

The North Carolina Botanical Garden holds ex situ seed collection is it's seed bank.  Material represents 5 states and 15 distinct populations.

  • 01/09/2018

Seeds are periodically added to known populations on beaches in Delaware by Bill McAvoy (Botanist, Wildlife Species Conservation and Research Program).

Mike Kunz
  • 01/09/2018

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.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Eliminated from two-thirds of its historic range. Formerly occurred on barrier island beaches from Massachusetts to South Carolina; now only extant in significant numbers in New York and the Carolinas, and in tiny stands in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey. Approximately 50 populations are estimated to remain, all in a narrow band of suitable habitat (even formerly, the actual area occupied was quite small). Many threats exist, 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.

  • 01/01/2010

Development, beach stabilization structures, off-road vehicles, recreational beach use, sea level rise. Beach erosion and tidal inundation also cause loss of individuals and habitat. Fragmentation of surviving patches of suitable habitat tend to be too far apart for seeds to travel and recolonize.

  • 01/01/2010

At the time of listing, this species was known from 13 populations in NY, 34 populations in NC and 8 populations in SC (USFWS 1993). There are currently populations in NY, NJ, DE, MD, VA, NC and SC. Between 1999 and 2015, A. pumilus experienced a 98.5% decline in the number of individuals found range-wide (Dale Suiter, USFWS, personal communication).

  • 01/01/2010

The Maryland Department of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky have plans for an experimental restoration of this species in Maryland at the site it was discovered at in 1999. (Lea 1999)

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Nomenclature
Taxon Amaranthus pumilus
Authority Raf.
Family Amaranthaceae
CPC Number 100
ITIS 20744
USDA AMPU2
Common Names Seabeach Amaranth | Seabeach Pigweed | Seaside Amaranth
Associated Scientific Names Amaranthus pumilus
Distribution Amaranthus pumilus is endemic to the Atlantic coastal plain from Massachusetts to South Carolina.  Currently it found only in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and occasionally Virginia. It is considered extirpated from the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut (USFWS 1993; NatureServe, 2017). Recordings of its findings date all the way back to 1802, made by Samuel Constantine Rafinesque (Kelly 2013)
 
State Rank
State State Rank
Connecticut SH
Delaware S1
Massachusetts SH
Maryland S1
North Carolina S2
New Jersey S1
New York S2
Pennsylvania SNA
Rhode Island SH
South Carolina S1
Virginia S1
Habitat

Amaranthus pumilus occurs on Atlantic barrier island beaches in areas where there is low competition from other vegetation, especially overwash flats at accreting ends islands, lower foredunes, and upper strands of non-eroding beaches (landward of the wrackline) (USFWS 1993).

Ecological Relationships

Amaranthus pumilus 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).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Other
Wind Confirmed Pollinator Link

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