Wavyleaf Sea Lavender (not native)

Limonium sinuatum

sprays of white and purple flowers
Photo credit: Lea Corkidi | Harbaugh Seaside Trails | April 2015

There are four different species called sea lavender at the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. They all belong to the genus Limonium, and can be recognized by their papery, colored calyx, which is often thought to be the flower itself. However, only California sea lavender (L. californicum) is native to California. Wavyleaf sea lavender (L. sinuatum) is native to the Mediterranean region, and is distinguished from the other sea lavender species by its deeply lobed (wavy) leaves and flat winged flowering stems which give it the names wavyleaf sea lavender, cut-leaf sea lavender and winged sea lavender.

Other Common Names:

Cut-leaf sea lavender, winged sea lavender, notch leaf marsh rosemary, sea lavender, statice, wavy sea lavender, everlasting flower, perennial sea-lavender

Description 2,4,59

Wavyleaf sea lavender is a short-lived perennial herb that produces several branched flower stalks from a basal rosette of leaves. The stalks are hairy, and its leaves are deeply pinnately lobed, usually 1¼ -7 inches (3-12 cm) long, and tapered at the base; leaf margins are coarsely hairy.

Wavyleaf sea lavender is distinguished from the native sea lavender (L. californicum) by the stiff, winged flowering stems that reach up to 27 1/2 inches (70 cm) in height. Stems are leafless, but at each node, the wings extend outward forming a whirl of 3 to 4 narrow, leaf-like structures.

The flowers of wavyleaf sea lavender occur in much-branched, flat-topped clusters. Below the cluster, the stem wings extend outward into triangular, pointed leaf-like structures which, together with numerous pointed bracts, give the flower base a prickly appearance. The sessile flower is small, about ¼ inch (6-7 mm) across. The showy, papery, five-lobed calyx can be yellow, pink, white or lavender and is often mistaken for the corolla. The flower is symmetrical, with five stamens, one pistil with five styles, and generally white or yellowish petals.

Wavyleaf sea lavender blooms year round,7 and produces one-seeded fruits from early-March to mid-September. Each fruit develops within the persistent calyx.

plant leaves

Deeply lobed leaves | West Basin | April 2015

stems with white and purple flowers

Winged stems | Photo credit: Lea Corkidi | Harbaugh Seaside Trails | April 2015

small flower cluster

winged stem expands around base of flower cluster | Harbaugh Seaside Trails | Jan 2016


Wavyleaf sea lavender, originally from the Mediterranean region, has widely naturalized. In western and southeastern Australia, it is now regarded as an environmental weed, since it has escaped from ornamental gardens, and is invading the native saline wetlands of those areas.235

Although it has naturalized in California, as of 2016, it has not been listed as invasive by the California Invasive Plant Council,183 but is widely distributed in coastal habitats such as beaches, salt marshes, coastal prairies as well as saline and alkaline areas. It is also common along the roadsides of Southern California.2

In San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, wavyleaf sea lavender is found on Harbaugh Seaside Trails and within West Basin.


Wavyleaf sea lavender is a dicot angiosperm in the leadwort or plumbago family (Plumbaginaceae). This family includes over 600 species of annuals or perennial subshrubs or vines,243 mostly associated with saline soils.44,176 However, only two species of this family are native to California, California sea lavender (L. californicum) and sea pink (Armeria maritima ssp. californica).2

Plants in the leadwort family are characterized by simple leaves that often bear glands on the surface, and by radially symmetric bisexual flowers, with five petals, five stamens, and five thin and membranous sepals, that may be more colorful and showy than the petals, and that remain attached to the fruit until maturity.2,176

The leadwort family includes some plants of horticultural value as ornamental plants in residential landscapes, including sea pink, some species of sea lavender, and plumbago.214

In addition wavyleaf sea lavender, there are four other species of sea lavender in the Reserve: California sea lavenderPerez’s sea lavender (L. perezii), European sea lavender (L. duriusculum) and Algerian sea lavender (L. ramosissimum).48

Alternate Scientific Names:

Statice sinuata

Jepson eFlora Taxon Page
plant growing in sand

Harbaugh Seaside Trails | Jan. 2012

white and lavender flowers

form with pale lavender sepals | Harbaugh Seaside Trails | Jan. 2016

spray of white and purple flowers

Photo credit Lea Corkidi | Harbaugh Seaside Trails | Jan. 2012


Wavyleaf sea lavender is considered a moderate halophyte,179 a type of plant that has adapted to elevated concentrations of salts in the soil.236 Most halophytes, including wavyleaf sea lavender, can block the uptake of excess salts at their roots. In addition, they have salt glands in their leaves (sometimes called chalk glands in wavyleaf sea lavender). These structures can excrete the variety of salts that escape the blocking mechanisms at the roots.176, 237

low growing plant with white and yellow flowers

Unusual yellow flowered form with white sepals | West Basin | April 2015

basal whirl of leaves flat against ground

leaves grow in rosette close to ground | Photo credit: Lea Corkidi | April 2015

sprays of white and purple flowers

Photo credit: Lea Corkidi | Harbaugh Seaside Trails | April 2015

Human Uses  

Several species of Limonium are important garden plants in Mediterranean climates.214 They tolerate heat and a variety of soil types; once established they need little water. The delicate papery flowers of wavyleaf sea lavender are popular for dry arrangements. In 2014, the USDA estimated the annual sales value for cut flowers of sea lavenders at over 1 million dollars.238

Because of its general salt tolerance, wavyleaf sea lavender has been studied as a candidate for irrigation with reclaimed, nonpotable wastewater. To date, the results have been mixed.234

white and purple flowers

Photo credit: Lea Corkidi | Harbaugh Seaside Trails | April 2015

spray of white and purple flowers

Photo credit Lea Corkidi | Harbaugh Seaside Trails | Jan. 2012

Interesting Facts  

The name of the genus, Limonium, is thought to come from the ancient Greek word for a marsh, “leimon”,21 although how this applies to a species of dry, salty places is not clear. The name of the species, sinuatum, was given in 1753 by Linnaeus for its sinuous, curved leaf edges.59

patch of white and purple flowers

West Basin | June 2016

spray of white and purple flowers

Harbaugh Seaside Trails | Jan. 2012

pale yellow and lavender flowers

form with pale yellow flowers and lavender sepals | Harbaugh Seaside Trails | January 2016

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