|Salicornia virginica in flower.|
The blossoms are those tiny
stringlike structures at the ends
of the branches.
Salicornia plants are odd-looking little things, though you might have to get close to see very much; most species don't get much larger than a foot tall. With their thick, succulent stems and tiny, scale-like leaves pulled in close, they look mostly leafless, and indeed the stems do most of their photosynthesis. Some species are edible, sold as a delicacy under the names "sea beans" or "samphire greens"; it's also been used in the glass industry, as a source of soda ash. These two uses, as a salty food and as a source of sodium carbonate, betray one important fact: mature Salicornia plants are chock full of salt. Yes, it's the same salt you're thinking -- sea salt, table salt, salt that sucks the water right out of living things.
Hence their names: pickleweed for the salty flavor, sea pickle for the tolerance to ocean salinity, glasswort for being so rich in salt that the glass industry once used them as sodium collectors.
Image source: Folini, Franco. American Glasswort (Salicornia virginica) (6122382261). Retrieved 6 Oct 2014, from Wikimedia Commons: <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:American_Glasswort_(Salicornia_virginica)_(6122382261).jpg>