For the month of January, our chosen plant of the month is Marsh Sandwort, known scientifically as Arenaria paludicola. Marsh Sandwort has a very limited range, and has been federally listed as an endangered species since 1993.
The stems of Marsh Sandwort can be up to 3 feet long. It is sometimes upright, but often supported by other vegetation. It has slender leaves and is found in freshwater environments. Its stems and leaves are green, and its flowers are small, white and grow singularly off of slender stalks. Seed capsules typically contain 15-20 seeds. Marsh Sandwort blooms from May to August.
Marsh Sandwort is a coastal species that is known to occur in wetlands and freshwater marshes. This species is also known to be great habitat for amphibians and other aquatic creatures. Natural populations of Arenaria paludicola are very limited. Historically, this species was known to occur in Oregon and Washington, but is now extirpated in both states. One wild colony of Marsh Sandwort occurs at Oso Flaco Lake, and another introduced population occurs on the southern edge of Morro Bay. More recent efforts have been made to re-establish small colonies in other fresh-water bodies within the Guadalupe-Nipomo Wildlife Refuge.
Habitat degradation and competition with exotic species for light, water, nutrients, and space have contributed to the decline of this species. Changes in hydrology from drought and urban development have also likely contributed to declines. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is actively working to establish recovered populations of Marsh Sandwort at several sites throughout California.