This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
The coasts of Europe to the south of France, and those of N. Africa, or the Temperate Zone, mark the present distribution of this plant, which is unknown in earlier times. It is found in Great Britain throughout the whole Peninsular province, and the South coast, on the East coast only in E. Suffolk, on the entire Welsh coast except Denbigh and Flint, throughout the Lakes province, in Kirkcudbright,Wigtown, Ayr, or generally from Ayr southwards, and on all the Irish coasts.
Samphire is a maritime plant which grows on the rocky south and west coasts, where also are to be found Yellow Horned Poppy, Scurvy Grass, Sea Campion, Thrift, Sea Lavender, Sea Plantain, Saltwort, and other salt-lovers. It is found on stone walls as well as on rocks.
Like many other maritime species, Samphire is a fleshy plant with a more or less shrubby habit, compact, with suberect, branching stems. The leaves are several times divided with leaflets each side of a common stalk, linear lance-shaped, fleshy to succulent, acute above and below, and triangular. The leaf-stalks are short but stout, with long membranous sheaths.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Samphire (Crithmum maritimum, L.)
The flowers, which are highly odorous, are white or yellow, in umbels with involucres, with lance-shaped, acute leaves, flat, and with stout peduncles. The bracts are spreading, small, and acute. There are no calyx-teeth, the petals are very small and soon drop.
In the Samphire the fruits are oblong, like barley, whence the first Greek name (latinized).
The plant is about 1 ft. or 18 in. high. It flowers from July to September. It is a deciduous, herbaceous perennial, multiplied by division.
The flowers are small, white, with minute petals with a long point, turned inwards, soon dropping, and with short styles. The plant is inconspicuous, and owing- to its maritime habitat not liable to be visited by insects. The anthers mature first, and only when the pollen is all shed does the stigma ripen.
The fruits are flattened, and so more easily dispersed by the wind. When ripe, being semi-detached, they are easily blown away.
Samphire is a salt-lover which requires a saline soil. It is also a sand plant and is addicted to a sand soil.
The only insect which feeds upon this plant is Triosa crithmi, a Homopterous insect. As in the case of other seaside species fungi do not attack it.
Crithmum, Dioscorides, is the Greek name of the plant, which may be from the Greek crithe, barley, on account of the shape of the fruit, and the second Latin name is in allusion to the habitat.
The plant is called Camphire, Peter's Cress, Crestmarine, Sea Fennel, Pasper, Pierce-stone, Sampere, Samphire, Rock Samphire, Sampier, Semper, Rock Semper.
Samphire was described by Gerard as yielding "the pleasantest sauce, and best agreeing with man's body, tor the digestion of meats". It is liked by cattle. Samphire is used as a pickle and in salads, and as a pot herb. It can be grown in the garden in beds of sand, rubbish, or in pots, but should be supplied with barilla, as it is on the coast, from the sea breezes containing salt, and the salt blown upon it by the wind.
Essential Specific Characters: 127. Crithmum maritimum, L. - Stem short, fleshy, glabrous, leaves glaucous, bi- or tri-pinnate, leaflets linear-lanceolate, flowers small, white or yellow, in umbels, with short bracts, fruit green or purple.