Salty Susan

Jaumea carnosa

green field with yellow flowers
Rios trailhead | June 2016

Salty Susan (Jaumea carnosa) is native to the salt marshes of the west coast of North America where it hugs the coastline, adding small bright pops of yellow to the coastal marshes.

Like pickleweed, salty Susan can survive on sea water by concentrating the salt in special vacuoles within the plant, using the remaining, desalinated water for its fresh water needs.

Other Common Names:

marsh jaumea, saltmarsh daisy, fleshy jaumea

Description 2,4,11,59

Salty Susan is a low-growing, perennial herb that spreads horizontally from an underground rhizome; the rhizome sends up vertical shoots usually less than 14 inches (35 cm) high. Smooth fleshy leaves are opposite on the stem and are narrowly linear or oblanceolate in shape and up to 2½ inches (6 cm) long, with smooth margins. Leaves are bright green in color and lack petioles, clasping the stem directly and fusing with the base of the opposite leaf. Leaves are shed in pairs leaving a persistent, tan membrane around the stem. From a distance, salty Susan can be mistaken for pickleweed, from which it is distinguished by a brighter green color, the presence of leaves and, when blooming, the presence of flowers.

Bright yellow, daisy-like flower heads, about 3/4 inch (2 cm) across, are solitary on the ends of branches. Flower heads consist of both disk and ray florets on a domed receptacle, which makes the disk florets more prominent than the ray florets. The involucre consists of 2-15 overlapping, closely appressed phyllaries. The outer phyllaries are broadly triangular to ovate; their tips often tinged with maroon. There are up to 12 strap-shaped, female ray florets, the ray often toothed at the end. There are up to 50 symmetrical bisexual five-lobed disk florets. The pistil of both the ray and the disk floret has an inferior ovary and an unequally branched style exserted from the floret. The disk floret has five stamens, the anthers of which are loosely fused around the style. Most blooms occur April to December.1

The small, dark, dry one-seeded fruit is less than 1/8 inch (3 mm) long with 10 ribs. Fruit from ray florets are somewhat smaller than disk fruit. The pappus is absent or rudimentary.

Yellow buds starts to blossom

Santa Inez trailhead | June 2015

yellow tiny bulbs on top of stem

Pole road | May 2008

green leafed stem

Rios trailhead | June 2016

Distribution 7,89

Salty Susan is native to the near coastal areas of North America from southern Canada to northern Baja California, rarely above 1000 feet (300 m). It is a salt marsh plant, occasionally found in wetland-riparian areas.

In the Reserve, salty Susan is found throughout the Central Basin at the upper edges of the salt marsh. It often forms single species patches that stand out because of their bright green color. It is occasionally found in East Basin, in damp areas where the alkaline soils seemingly provide a suitable environment in spite of the freshwater source.

Reserve map of coastal sage scrub, chaparral and coastal strand vegetation types

Classification  

Salty Susan is a dicot angiosperm in the sunflower family (Asteraceae).2,11 This is the largest family of vascular plants in the Northern Hemisphere.143 “Flowers” of Asteraceae are made up of one or both of two types of flowers (florets): symmetrical disk florets and strapped-shaped ray florets. These are crowded onto a common base (receptacle), and together are often assumed to be a single flower, which we call a flower head.11,44,49,143

Other familiar Asteraceae that occur in the Reserve include California sagebrush (Artemisia californica), bush sunflower (Enceliacalifornica), and goldenbush (Isocoma menziesii).48

The genus Jaumea contains only two species, which can be recognized, in part, by the presence of both disk and ray florets, by the number and shape of the phyllaries, by the lack of a pappus and by the fleshy, sessile, opposite leaves.2,11 Salty Susan is the only member of this genus in California.

Alternate Scientific Names:

Coinogyne carnosa

Jepson eFlora Taxon Page
yellow flower with tiny dots in center

Rios trailhead | June 2016

Salty susan growing near channel

Rios trailhead | May 2016

yellow flower with small yellow dots on the inside

Rios trailhead | June 2015

Ecology  

Salty Susan is generally restricted to a narrow elevation range in the salt marsh,276 often forming conspicuous bright green bands near the upper edge of the pickleweed.

Like other plants of the salt marsh, salty Susan is adapted to elevated concentrations of salt. Like pickleweed (Salicornia pacifica), it removes excess salts from its tissues by storing concentrated brine in special cells (vacuoles) where it is isolated from the cytoplasm.278 It then uses the desalinated water for growth and reproduction.

Ironically, salty Susan grows best when watered with fresh water. It appears to be restricted to the salt marsh, not because of its preference for salt but because its ability to tolerate salinity gives salty Susan a competitive advantage in the salt marsh that it lacks in other situations.279 You could grow salty Susans in your flower garden if you did not combine them with marigolds or nasturtiums or any other plant that would crowd them out.

Small yellow flower with green leaves surrounding

Pole road | August 2009

stems with yellow flowers on top

Rios trailhead | June 2016

green field with yellow flowers on top of stem

Pole road | August 2009

Human Uses 16

The Kumeyaay distinguished two types of salty Susan: those that “smelled” and those that did not. The former type was boiled into a tea to treat a fever. It was also cooked and eaten as a vegetable.

yellow flower with tiny dots on inside

Santa Inez trailhead | June 2014

green field with sporadic yellow flowers

Salty susan with Alkali heath and dodder | Rios trailhead | September 2014

ariel view of green leaves

Pole road | June 2016

Interesting Facts 21,277

The genus is named for Jean Henri Jaume Saint-Hilaire, a French botanist and artist who lived between 1772 and 1845. Jaume was dedicated to the protection and conservation of forests and was a strong advocate for the use of botanical science for the improvement of agriculture.

In France, the name Jaume is properly pronounced “Zhome”, so the genus name Jaumea should be “Zhome-a”. Locally, it is usually mispronounced “Jow-may-a”.

stem with 3 connecting stems

Pair of leaves, bases wrapped around stem | Rios trailhead | June 2016

yellow flower petal curved under microscope

Ray floret with split style | Rios trailhead | June 2016

yellow floret under microscope

Disk floret with anthers forming column around developing style | Rios trailhead | June 2016

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