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Seabeach Amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus)

Seabeach amaranth

Status:  Threatened

Description:  Seabeach amaranth is an annual plant found on the dunes of Atlantic Ocean beaches.  The stems are fleshy and pink-red or reddish, with small rounded leaves that are 1.3 to 2.5 centimeters in diameter.  The leaves, with indented veins, are clustered toward the tip of the stem and have a small notch at the rounded tip.  Flowers and fruits are relatively inconspicuous, borne in clusters along the stems.  Germination occurs over a relatively long period of time, generally from April to July.  Upon germination, the species forms a small unbranched sprig, but soon begins to branch profusely into a clump.  This clump often reaches 30 cm in diameter and consists of five to 20 branches.  Occasionally, a clump may get as large as a meter or more across, with 100 or more branches.

Flowering begins as soon as plants have reached sufficient size, sometimes as early as June, but more typically commencing in July and continuing until the death of the plant in late fall.  Seed production begins in July or August and peaks in September during most years, but continues until the death of the plant.  Weather events, including rainfall, hurricanes, and temperature extremes, and predation by webworms have strong effects on the length of seabeach amaranth's reproductive season.  As a result of one or more of these influences, the flowering and fruiting period can be terminated as early as June or July.  Under favorable circumstances, however, the reproductive season may extend until January or sometimes later.  The species is an effective sand binder, building dunes where it grows.

Habitat:  Seabeach amaranth occurs on barrier island beaches, where its primary habitat consists of overwash flats at accreting ends of islands and lower foredunes and upper strands of noneroding beaches.  It occasionally establishes small temporary populations in other habitats, including sound-side beaches, blowouts in foredunes, and sand and shell material placed as beach replenishment or dredge spoil.  Seabeach amaranth appears to be intolerant of competition and does not occur on well-vegetated sites.  The species appears to need extensive areas of barrier island beaches and inlets, functioning in a relatively natural and dynamic manner.  These characteristics allow it to move around in the landscape as a fugitive species, occupying suitable habitat as it becomes available.

Distribution and Range:  Historically, seabeach amaranth occurred in 31 counties in nine states from Massachusetts to South Carolina.  The species is currently found in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Seabeach amaranth

Listing:  Seabeach amaranth was listed as Threatened on April 7, 1993 under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (as amended).  Before its listing, seabeach amaranth had undergone a reduction in range, population sizes and populations.  At the time of listing only 55 populations where known.

Threats:  The most serious threats to the continued existence of Seabeach amaranth include the construction of beach stabilization structures, beach erosion and tidal inundation, beach grooming, herbivory by insects and feral animals and, in certian circumstances, by off-road vehicles.

Why Protect Seabeach amamranth:  Extinction is a natural process.  Normally, new species develop through a process known as speciation at about the same rate they go extinct.  However, because of air and water pollution, over-hunting, extensive deforestation, the loss of wetlands, and other human-impacts, extinctions are now occurring at a rate that far exceeds speciation.  These actions are reducing the biodiversity on Earth.

The reduction of biodiversity reduces the ecological integrity of our environment.  All living organisms perform a function in our environment and are dependent on the functions of other organisms.  In turn, there is interconnectedness among species including us in the environment. 

For More Information on Seabeach amaranth... 

Do you need additional help? 

For additional information about Seabeach amaranth or the information presented on this webpage, contact Dale Suiter in the Raleigh Field Office at dale_suiter@fws.gov

Questions related to the Service's endangered species program or other program activities can be addressed to the appropriate staff from our Asheville or Raleigh Field Offices.

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