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Salt Heliotrope Heliotropium curassavicum


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Salt Heliotrope
credit: Stan Shebs/CCSA

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Alternate name: Quail Plant, Seaside Heliotrope

Family: Boraginaceae, Borage view all from this family

Description A fleshy, bluish-green, smooth plant with leafy stems mostly lying on ground, usually with paired coils of small, white or purplish-tinged flowers.
Habit: native perennial subshrub or herb; smooth prostrate stems curve upward at the tips.
Height: 6-12 in (15-30 cm) high, many feet wide.
Leaf: alternate, succulent, linear to oblanceolate to obovate, to 2.5 in (6 cm) long, to 3/4 in (2 cm) wide, sessile or on short stalks, smooth, glaucous, without teeth.
Flower: small, white trumpet, 5-lobed, sometimes yellow or purple-black at center, 1/4 in (6 mm) wide; held in tight linear cluster on one side of strongly curved flower stalk.
Fruit: 4 ovoid nutlets, to 1/8 in (3 mm) long.

Warning Consumption of a tea made from the leaves of this plant can cause liver disease. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Flower March to October.

Habitat Moist, salty or alkaline areas; dunes, coastal flats, marshes, streambanks; also cultivated ornamentally.

Range Native to the western United States east to Great Plains and across southern United States; now naturalized in parts of the eastern seaboard, as far north as New York and Maine.

Discussion Also known as seaside heliotrope, wild heliotrope, chinese pusley, quail plant. Three varieties are recognized. A wetland indicator except in the southwest. This plant is also found in Mexico and South America. In some parts of the West this species is called Quail Plant after the birds that feed on its fruit. The Spanish name, Cola de Mico, meaning monkey tail, describes the coiled flower cluster.