Terrestrial Plants

Smooth cordgrass P

Spartina alterniflora

Characteristics:

Slender, flat leaf blades that taper at the tip; leaves are yellow-green in the spring and summer, and brown in the fall and winter

Characteristics:

Slender, flat leaf blades that taper at the tip; leaves are yellow-green in the spring and summer, and brown in the fall and winter

Range:

Atlantic coast of the U.S., the Gulf of Mexico coastline, invasive along the Pacific coast

Size:

Height of grass depends on which zone of the salt marsh it is found in; in the low marsh, Spartina can reach heights up to 8ft (2.5m), but in the high marsh it may only reach 1ft (30cm) in height

Habitat:

Throughout the marsh platform, especially tall along the shoreline of tidal creeks

Fun Fact:

Spartina is the only grass with the adaptations needed to survive in the stressful low salt marsh environment:

  1. Glands along the blades excrete excess salt
  2. A root-rhizome system acts as an anchor, holding the grass steady against high wave energy; as salinity decreases it shares space with other species; the stems and root mats of Spartina are highly effective at accumulating fine sediment, thus helping combat sea level rise;

Spartina reproduces in three ways:

  1. Seeds disperse by wind and tides
  2. fragments of living plants break off and form new ones
  3. rhizomes can sprout new plants

 

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Black needlerush P

Juncus roemerianus

Characteristics:

Stiff, sharp green-black leaves

Characteristics:

Stiff, sharp green-black leaves

Range:

MD to FL, the Gulf of Mexico

Size:

Up to 6ft (2m) in height

Habitat:

High marsh towards the upland border, or in elevated spots on the marsh platform

Fun Fact:

Named needlerush because of sharp needle-like points at the end of the leaves; used in sweetgrass baskets

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Glasswort P

Salicornia virginica

Characteristics:

Round, fleshy, jointed branches

Characteristics:

Round, fleshy, jointed branches

Range:

Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the U.S.

Size:

Patches range in size

Habitat:

High marsh, can colonize bare areas such as salt pannes where other plants cannot survive

Fun Fact:

Edible to humans and harvested as an accent for salads

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Marsh elder P

Iva frutescens

Characteristics:
Upland shrub with pointed green succulent leaves

Characteristics:
Upland shrub with pointed green succulent leaves
Range:
Atlantic coast of the U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico
Size:
3-8ft (1-2.5m) in height
Habitat:
Marsh upland border
Fun Fact:
Acts as important nesting habitat for the marsh wren and red-winged blackbird
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Saltgrass P

Distichlis spicata

Characteristics:
Thin, slender green leaves

Characteristics:
Thin, slender green leaves
Range:
Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the U.S., the Gulf of Mexico, and the northern coast of South America
Size:
1-3ft (up to 1m) in height
Habitat:
High marsh towards the upland border, troughs of back dune areas
Fun Fact:
Saltgrass is an important food plant for butterflies
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Saltmeadow cordgrass P

Spartina patens

Characteristics:
Long, shiny, dark green leaves

Characteristics:
Long, shiny, dark green leaves
Range:
Atlantic coast of the U.S., the Gulf of Mexico, and along the shores of the Great Lakes
Size:
1-4ft (up to 1m) in height
Habitat:
Marsh platform and sandy beaches
Fun Fact:
Can tolerate fresh, brackish, and salt water; sometimes difficult to distinguish between other upland grasses
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Saltwort P

Batis maritima

Characteristics:

Small, fleshy, club-shaped bright green leaves

Characteristics:

Small, fleshy, club-shaped bright green leaves

Range:

Southeast U.S. coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and coast of CA

Size:

Patches range in size

Habitat:

High marsh, often near salt pannes

Fun Fact:

Retains salt in its leaves, similar to Salicornia; harvested for cooking purposes

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Sea lavender P

Limonium carolinianum

Characteristics:
Smooth, green leaves with small light purple flowers

Characteristics:
Smooth, green leaves with small light purple flowers
Range:
Atlantic coast of the U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico
Size:
Up to 1ft (30cm) in height
Habitat:
Brackish marshes, coastal beaches
Fun Fact:
Flowers are often harvested for floral arrangements; over-harvested in some areas
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Sea ox-eye daisy P

Borrichia frutescens

Characteristics:
Leaves are fleshy and gray-green, with yellow flowers

Characteristics:
Leaves are fleshy and gray-green, with yellow flowers
Range:
Atlantic coast of the U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico
Size:
2-4ft (up to 1m) in height
Habitat:
Upland border in the marsh, sometimes beach dunes
Fun Fact:
Sea ox-eye is an important source of nectar for butterflies; thick leaves help retain water during dry periods
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