Despite its common name ‘sea lavender’ is a member of the Plumbaginaceae Family, which means that it isn’t really a ‘lavender’ at all, as lavenders belong to the Lamiaceae Family. One of the plant’s unique characteristics is that it’s one of only a handful of the Limonium genera’s 120 species with a range limited to North America; the majority of the genera’s members show a much more global distribution. Here in Florida, the Obligate can be found near saltwater or brackish marshes, or as with the one in the above photo, in mangrove swamps.
Limonium carolinianum is an herbaceous perennial with a woody rhizome and alternating leaves. The leaves themselves are basal, generally elliptic in shape and have a leathery feel when touched. The flowers display five stamens, and a five-lobed, whitish colored calyx with a corolla that ranges from blue to lavender. The fruits of the sea lavender bear a single maroon colored seed, which as with the plant’s range mentioned above, represent another unique characteristic. More specifically, the seeds’ morphology and structure have undergone adaptation as to tell-the-tale of plant’s favored mode of geographic conquest.
The brownish-red seeds of the sea lavender are relatively large and display a sheen that likely attracts birds. The plant’s habitat preference for saltwater proximal real-estate when combined with the sheen displayed by its seeds may work cohesively to facilitate dispersal of its genome. As Charles Darwin pointed out on page 361 of the Origin of Species,
“Living birds can hardly fail to be highly effective agents in the transportation of seeds.”
This is likely true of Limonium carolinianum, a plant species that has adapted to near-sea environments that are frequented by shore birds.
Biologically assisted seed dispersal mechanisms can be thought of as primarily working along one of two primary lines. One method of dispersal, called epizoochory, relays on seeds being externally attached to the hair, fur or feathers of animals. Once attached, the seeds are carried with the animal as it moves across the landscape. The second mode of animal derived seed transport is called endozoochory; in this instance the seeds are eaten by an herbivore or frugivore and then deposited elsewhere with the animal’s feces.
Although the possibility of water facilitated seed dispersal is not ruled-out, the seed morphology of Limonium carolinianum increases the plausibility for endozoochory.
FIGUEROLA, J., & GREEN, A. (2002). Dispersal of aquatic organisms by waterbirds: a review of past research and priorities for future studies Freshwater Biology, 47 (3), 483-494 DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2427.2002.00829.x