Common name. Samphires. Family Chenopodiaceae.
Habit and leaf form. Herbs. Switch-plants; with the principal photosynthesizing function transferred to stems. Leaves much reduced (appearing leafless but with bilobed internode apices). Plants succulent (internodes succulent when young); unarmed. Annual, or perennial (short-lived). Leaves cauline. Plants with a basal concentration of leaves, or with neither basal nor terminal concentrations of leaves. Stems ‘jointed’, with fleshy internodes. Young stems cylindrical (cylindrical segments of internodes). Helophytic to xerophytic. Leaves minute to large; opposite; bladeless; connate (i.e. the lobes representing them); simple; epulvinate; without stipules; without a persistent basal meristem. Leaf anatomy. Hydathodes present, or absent. Hairs absent.
Reproductive type, pollination. Fertile flowers hermaphrodite. Unisexual flowers absent. Plants hermaphrodite.
Inflorescence and flower features. Flowers aggregated in ‘inflorescences’; in spikes, or in cymes (in a spike-like thyrse). The terminal inflorescence unit cymose. Inflorescences terminal (or lateral); spike sessile, 3–5 flowers concealed within axils of bracts. Flowers sessile; bracteate (bracts free or almost free, opposite, decussate pairs, fan-shaped, succulent); ebracteolate; minute, or small; regular; cyclic. Hypogynous disk present, or absent. Perianth sepaline; 2 (laterally placed); 1 -whorled; joined (imbricate); fleshy, or non-fleshy; persistent; accrescent, or non-accrescent. Calyx present; not replaced by accrescent bracteoles; 2 (laterally placed); polysepalous (eventually), or gamosepalous; imbricate; fleshy; persistent (in the fruit); accrescent, or non-accrescent. The fruiting calyx not berrylike; wingless, spineless and without tubercles. Sepals plano-convex. Calyx lobes plano-convex, obtuse. Corolla absent. Androecial members definite in number. Androecium 1. Androecial members free of the perianth, or adnate (to the base of the perianth); all equal; free of one another, or coherent; when coherent 1 - adelphous (connate at the base); 1 -whorled. Androecium exclusively of fertile stamens. Stamens 1; isomerous with the perianth; oppositisepalous (abaxial). Anthers bent inwards in bud; dehiscing via longitudinal slits; bilocular (AKPL), or many locular (N); tetrasporangiate. Gynoecium (2–)5 carpelled. The pistil 1 celled. Gynoecium syncarpous; synovarious to synstylovarious; superior. Ovary unilocular; 1 locular; sessile. Gynoecium stylate. Styles 1; partially joined. Placentation basal. Ovules in the single cavity 1; pendulous, or ascending; non-arillate; campylotropous.
Fruit and seed features. Fruit non-fleshy (pericarp membranous); indehiscent; capsular-indehiscent; without fleshy investment; 1 celled. Gynoecia of adjoining flowers combining to form a multiple fruit, or not forming a multiple fruit. Fruit 1 seeded. Seeds more or less non-endospermic. Perisperm present. Cotyledons 2. Embryo curved.
Special features. 3(–5) flowers subtended by each floral leaf.
Etymology. From the Latin for "hidden" and "horn"; the second element is transferred from genus Salicornia, while the first may refer to bracts tending to hide the spike or to the difficulty of analysing the flower from dried specimens.