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American Sea-rocket (Cakile edentula var. lacustris)

Life history

Species overview

American Sea-rocket (Cakile edentula var. lacustris), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found on Lake Michigan beaches or, less commonly, on dunes. Blooming occurs early July through early September; fruiting occurs late July through late September. The optimal identification period for this species is early July through late September.

Synonyms: Bunias edentula, Cakile americana, Cakile californica, Cakile lacustris


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Succulent plant of beaches with wavy-margined spatulate leaves; seed pod divided into two very unequal-sized parts, the top portion much larger and more plump than the lower.
  • Flower characteristics: Flower 4-parted; petals pale purple to white, 5 mm long.
  • Fruit characteristics: Seed pod divided into two unequal-sized sections, the lower part much smaller and top-shaped, 5 to 12 mm long and the upper much larger, oval or lance-shaped, plump, 5-9 mm wide, 4 to 8 angled, with a flattened tip. Only one seed is found in each section.
  • Leaf characteristics: Smooth, spatula shaped with a rounded tip, gradually tapering to the base and wavy edges.


  • Blooming phenology: early July through early September
  • Fruiting phenology: late July through late September
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is early July through late September


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Annual
  • Comments: Associated Species: Salsola kali, Corsipermum hyssopifolium, Euphorbia polygonifolia, Ammophila breviligulata, Lathyrus japonicus, Elymus lanceolatus ssp. psammophilus.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for American Sea-rocket (Cakile edentula var. lacustris). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Cakile edentula var. lacustris in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS3
Global RankG5T3T5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found on Lake Michigan beaches or, less commonly, on dunes.
  • Soils: Sandy soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with American Sea-rocket. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Great Lakes Beach 3
Great Lakes Dune 2

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for American Sea-rocket. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • No avoidance measures have been developed for this species.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • No guidance has been developed for this species.


American Sea-rocket Photo.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

American Sea-rocket Photo.

Photo © June Dobberpuhl.

American Sea-rocket Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

American Sea-rocket Photo.

Photo © June Dobberpuhl.

American Sea-rocket Photo.

Photo © Robert H. Read.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition