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

 

Habitat zones chart

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

Habitat zones chart

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

Habitat zones chart

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
Habitat zones chart

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
Habitat zones chart

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
Habitat zones chart

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

Habitat zones chart

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
Habitat zones chart

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
Habitat zones chart
EPA logo
SCDNR logo
South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium logo
Ace Basin NERR logo
Seal of the State of South Carolina
SERTC logo
Clemson Extension logo