Species Profile

Beach Pinweed

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


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Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Beach Pinweed

Taxonomy

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.

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Description

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.

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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.

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Habitat

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.

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Biology

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.

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Threats

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.

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Protection

Federal Protection

More 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

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Documents

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

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Beach Pinweed Lechea maritima in Canada (2008)

    Beach pinweed (Lechea maritima) is an herbaceous perennial in the family Cistaceae. The Canadian populations have been recognized as a unique variety, the Gulf of St. Lawrence beach pinweed (Lechea maritima var. subcylindrica). Since this is the only variety of Lechea maritima in Canada, this report documents the status of the Canadian populations at the species level and only refers to the var. subcylindrica when necessary for clarity. The species occurs on stable coastal sand dunes. Prostrate, densely leafy basal shoots develop from the woody base, often forming a rosette, and the fruiting stems are (10) 20-35 cm tall, usually erect and strongly branched. Plants flower in mid- to late summer and develop fruit in late summer and early fall. The numerous, inconspicuous flowers (2-4 mm wide) have three short-lived, reddish-brown petals. The fruit is a round, 3-valved capsule (1.8-2.1 mm long) usually shorter than the sepals, splitting open lengthwise to the base. The seeds, generally 4-5 per capsule, are smooth and 1-1.1 mm long, and without obvious adaptations for dispersal. Beach pinweed is best distinguished from the other pinweed in its range (narrowleaf pinweed, Lechea intermedia) by the densely white-hairy undersides of its basal leaves and by its smooth seeds.

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Beach Pinweed (2008)

    The Canadian populations have been recognized as an endemic variety of global significance. Plants are restricted to stabilized sand dunes within localized areas of coastline in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. The majority of the 15 populations, including the three largest, occur at elevations under 5 m above sea level. Here they are at increased risk from the impacts of severe storm surges resulting from rising sea levels and increased storm frequency and intensity predicted to occur as a consequence of climate change. A recent storm surge has already impacted a substantial portion of potential habitat at one of the New Brunswick sites. Other impacts have also been documented as a consequence of trampling, all terrain vehicle use, and successional changes to the species’ habitat.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada and associated National Historic Sites of Canada (2016)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada and associated National Historic Sites of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the four sites: Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada (KNP) and other land managed by Parks Canada in the Northern New-Brunswick Field Unit offering adequate habitat for the species targeted in this action plan (Fort Beauséjour – Fort Cumberland National Historic Site of Canada (NHS), Beaubassin – Fort Lawrence NHS, Grand-Pré NHS). The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA) (s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in KNP and associated NHS.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada (2016)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the gazette boundaries of Prince Edward Island National Park (PEINP), as well as, Crown lands located adjacent to the park that are owned and administered by Parks Canada, including Greenwich.. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan, and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at PEINP and on associated federal lands.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Beach Pinweed (Lechea maritima) in Canada (2013)

    The Beach Pinweed (Lechea maritima) is an herbaceous perennial plant in the Rockrose family. It is listed as Special Concern under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. The Minister of the Environment and the Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency are the competent ministers for the management of the Beach Pinweed and have prepared this management plan, as per section 65 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation or consultation with the Governments of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of Prince Edward Island (MCPEI).

Orders

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 - 2008 (2008)

    2008 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species (2009)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 20, 2009 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 19, 2010 for species undergoing extended consultations.