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Crithmum maritimum (L)             Rock Samphire


Crithmum : from Greek krithe : barley, from resemblance of fruit to barleycorn.

maritimum : of the sea.

Samphire : corruption of French St. Pieere, (St.Peter) the patron
saint of fishermen, also known as the rock.

OTHER NAMES : sea fennel, crest marine, sampler, zas, sanpetra, crithmus, sampere,
creta marina. Camphire, (Cumb). Creevereegh, (Donegal). Passper, (Scot) : to pierce rock.
Rock semper, (Yks, N’thum). Samper, (I oW). Semper, (Yks). Shamsher, (Corn).
Meerfenchel, (Germany) Herhachi San Pietra, finocchio marino, (Italy). Fenoull de mer,
(France). Hinojo marino, (Spain). Zeevenkel. (Dutch). Stranddi id, (banish).

BSBI Picture Link to Crithmum maritimum


TYPE : glaborous, branched perennial. Hp. AROMA : strong smell of furniture polish.
ROOTS : creeping, woody, tightly wedged in crevices STEMS : woody below, solid, striate.
HEIGHT : 45cm. UMBELS : compound, 3-6cm diam. 8-36 smooth, stout rays, 1-4 cm.
Thickening in fruit. Peduncles > than rays. Hermaphrodite.
LEAVES : 2-3 pinnate, fleshy, deltate in outline. Lobes (10) 20-50mm, subulate to linear-
lanceolate, acute, entire. Lower leaves with long petioles, shortly sheathing at the base. Upper
with short entirely sheathing petioles, < than lower. Cotyledons tapered at base.
BRACTS : 5-10, lanceolate, acute, <or> membranous spreading, deflexed in fruit.
Bracteoles 6-8, lanceolate, deflexed in fruit.
FLOWERS : yellowish-green. Sepals very small. Styles form a stylopodium. Fl. 6-8.
FRUIT : 5-6mm, ovoid-oblong, not compressed, corky, olive-green to  purple. Commisure
broad. Mericarps with thick prominent ridges. Vittae several in each groove of the spongy
mesocarp. Carpophore present. Pedicels 5-10 mm. Styles < than stylopodium, divergent.
Stigma truncate. 2n=20.

HABITAT : sea cliffs, rocks, sand, shingle. Sandy, well drained soil.

DISTRIBUTION native, common on the S. & W. coasts of England, Wales & Ireland.
Rare Scotland. Europe N. to Holland. Coasts of N.Atlantic, Med. and Black Sea.
BSBI Distribution Map for Crithmum maritimum (UK)


ACTIVE INGREDIENTS : high levels of vitamin C.
EFFECT : diuretic, cleanses toxins, improves digestion, encourages weight loss.
APPLICATION :: decoction of leaves for obesity, kidney complaints, slugishness.


Gerard, 1597 “pickled samphire for the stoppings of the liver, milt & kidnyes.”

Culpepper 1640 : “Out of fashion, this is deplorable, as it is
a great digestive.”


Used as a pickle, and for flavouring. Leaves gathered in May, sprinkled with salt, without
flowers, boiled and covered with vinegar and spice, make best pickle. Isle Of White : make
sauce of minced Samphire and butter.

Gerard, 1597 : “Pickled leaves eaten in salads with oil & vinegar, a pleasant sauce for meat.”

Some people made a pecunious livelyhood from collecting samphire from precarious sea
cliffs. Dispatched in casks of sea water/brine to London wholesalers for 4 shillings a bushel.
Sold as Crest Marine in markets. Samuel Pepys on 21 Sept 1660, was given a barrel of
Samphire pickle. Still sold in Cornish markets. Robert Turner 1664 : “Samphire of Isle Of
White is dangerous to gather, though they buy their sauce with the price of their lives."

Lord Of The Manor Of Freshwater: Charged a yearly rent for the privelage of
collecting Samphire from 600 ft cliffs.

Shakespear ‘King Lear’: "...half way down hangs one that gathers Samphire, dreadfull trade!"


Well drained soil, in sun, warm sheltered position Seed & division spring.


Some shipwrecked sailors found themselves on a rock on the Sussex coast, & debated
wether to swim ashore, the Captain however noticed samphire growing on the rock, and knew
they were safe. Plant of Jupiter.

EXTERNAL LINKS FOR Crithmum maritimum

These links to trusted websites and institutions may provide in depth or additional information regards cultivation, chemistry, edibility, images etc. for the species. Links last updated Aug 2012.

Wikipedia (EU)    Plants For a Future (UK)
Bio Info (UK)     National Center for Biotechnology Info (USA)
Journal Of Medicinal Plants (USA)
Practical Plants (ESP)    Wildcraft Vita (ITA)
Medi. Garden Society (GRE)    A Modern Herbal. M. Grieve (UK)

'Online Guide To Umbelliferae Of The British Isles' Compiled By J.M.Burton 2002