Scientific Name: Lechea maritima
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2008
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
Image of Beach Pinweed
Two varieties of Beach Pinweed are recognized: Lechea maritima var. maritima and Lechea maritima var. subcylindrica. Since the species is represented in Canada by only the subcylindrica variety, the name Beach Pinweed is used here without specifying the variety.
Beach Pinweed is a herbaceous perennial that grows in vegetated coastal sand dunes. Prostrate, densely leafy basal shoots develop from the woody base, often forming a rosette. The crowded basal leaves are whorled, thick, dull green, and covered with minute hairs above and dense white hairs below. The stem leaves, which are twice as long as the basal leaves, have scattered hairs, but become smooth in maturity. The flower stalks are usually erect and strongly branched. Each plant has 1 to 5 of these stalks, which are approximately 20 to 35 cm tall. Plants flower in mid- to late summer and produce fruit in late summer and early fall. The numerous inconspicuous flowers are crowded in small, dense clusters. Each flower has three short-lived, reddish-brown petals. The fruit is a spherical capsule approximately 2 mm in diameter. This small, dry fruit contains 3 to 6 smooth seeds approximately 1 mm long. The seeds have no obvious adaptations for dispersal. Beach Pinweed can be distinguished from narrowleaf pinweed, the only other pinweed species likely to be found in proximity to it in Canada, by its smooth seeds and by the densely white hairy undersides of its basal leaves.
Distribution and Population
The range of the Beach Pinweed species extends primarily from New Brunswick to North Carolina. Except in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where it can be found inland, the Beach Pinweed grows exclusively along the Atlantic coast. Reports for Ontario and Quebec have not been substantiated and are undoubtedly the result of misidentifications. The subcylindrica variety is rare and is found in Canada only on New Brunswick’s eastern coast and on Prince Edward Island’s northern shore. To date, 15 populations have been identified in Canada, and the total population is estimated at fewer than 181 000 plants. There is no information on long-term trends, but the five oldest populations, discovered between 1892 and 1932, are still extant. As a Canadian endemic, the subcylindrica variety can have no rescue from populations in the United States if it becomes extinct. At the species level, rescue effect through natural dispersal of seeds from plants in the United States is unlikely. The nearest occurrence of the maritima variety is in south-central Maine, roughly 115 km from the Canadian border.
Beach Pinweed is found only in coastal maritime sand dunes that are stabilized (largely covered by vegetation). It is usually found in sand in open, dry habitats. It is apparently unable to tolerate highly active dune sections and is typically found in comparatively sheltered sites, which are never subjected to overwash. Beach Pinweed is frequently found in association with beach heather, a low shrub that forms locally dominant and sometimes extensive patches. Beach Pinweed is also found locally in open jack pine-red pine woodland on old dunes, but these populations are small and are limited to the most open woodland. This particular habitat may be less than optimal because species that tolerate the partial shading created by the tree cover can out-compete Beach Pinweed.
Little information is available on the biology of Beach Pinweed. However, it is known that this perennial reproduces by seed. Since there seems to be no specialized mode of dispersal, most of the seeds presumably disperse in the vicinity of the mother plant. Seeds may be carried over greater distances by water or by high winds, especially over ice and snow. Beach Pinweed flowers in mid- to late summer and produces fruit in early fall. Pollination by the wind is suspected, but insect pollination is also possible. The various species of pinweed have been reported as being primarily self-pollinating, but certain cases of hybridization indicate cross-pollination by another pinweed. Under certain conditions, Beach Pinweed can reproduce at very small sizes in its second or perhaps first season, but most reproductive plants appear to be 8 to 10 years old. Most of the members of this family form a close relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. Generally, such relationships are very beneficial to the host plant because they facilitate the absorption of water and nutrients from the soil and increase the plant’s resistance to drought and soil-borne pathogens, thus improving the plant’s ability to withstand harsh conditions such as those found in dune habitats.
Much of the population is found below 5 m above sea level, so an increase in the sea level and in the frequency and intensity of storms caused by climate change could be a long-term threat to the species and its habitat. Several Beach Pinweed sites have already been noticeably altered in recent years by heavy storm activity. Some loss of pinweed habitat and populations has been observed. High levels of recreational activity during the summer months pose a problem for some populations. Minor loss due to all-terrain vehicle traffic in dunes and trampling has been noted at a few sites. Succession may be an issue at the two sites with forest cover. The natural colonization of the environment by plants could be causing declines in the Fox Island and Portage Island sites in New Brunswick. Populations at these sites are relatively small and could be lost over time. Finally, in Canada, the species has a very restricted geographic range and it grows in a very specific habitat type (stabilized sand dunes). Habitat specificity likely plays the largest role in the rarity of Beach Pinweed.
Federal ProtectionMore information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
In Canada, approximately one-third of the habitat containing this species is located within protected areas. Beach Pinweed is found in Portage Island National Wildlife Area, which is federal land protected under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The species is also found in Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada and Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada, where it is protected under the Canada National Parks Act. At the provincial level, the species benefits from provincial laws and regulations governing development of and limiting activities in coastal areas, including the New Brunswick Trespass Act and A Coastal Areas Protection Policy for New Brunswick as well as the Prince Edward Island Planning Act and Environmental Protection Act. The species also benefits from some protection on the Dune de Bouctouche, in Cabot Beach Provincial Park, and on other provincially owned land (the two Conway Sand Hills populations).
Provincial and Territorial Protection
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
10 record(s) found.
- COSEWIC Status Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Assessments (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (1 record(s) found.)
- Action Plans (2 record(s) found.)
- Management Plans (1 record(s) found.)
- Orders (2 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Consultation Documents (1 record(s) found.)
COSEWIC Status Reports
COSEWIC Annual Reports
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