[Photo: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database]
Saltmarsh cordgrass, Atlantic cordgrass, Smooth cordgrass
Description: Spartina alterniflora is a rhizomatous perennial grass that grows up to four feet tall. The stems are hollow and hairless. The leaf blades are 1/4 to 3/5 inches wide. The leaves lack auricles and have ligules that consist of a fringe of hairs. The flowers are inconspicuous and are borne in greatly congested spikes, two to three inches long (Hitchcock et al. 1969).
Habitat: Spartina alterniflora is a plant of the intertidal zone, where it colonizes mudflats or sandflats in saline or brackish water.
Distribution: Native habitat from Quebec and Newfoundland to Florida and Texas. Spartina alterniflora is also planted in many other parts of the world for estuary reclamation. This species is considered a non-native invasive plant on the U.S. Pacific coast.
Status: In its native habitat, this species is highly productive in its ability to export detritus to estuarine systems and is highly regarded for erosion control. Because of their ability to trap sediment, Spartina species have been planted in many parts of the world for estuary reclamation. Though Spartina alterniflora is valued in its native habitat its ability to trap sediment is a cause for concern in Washington, Oregon, and California.
Hitchcock, C.L., A.Cronquist, M. Ownbey, and J.W. Thompson. 1969. Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 1: Vascular Cryptogams, Gymnosperms, and Monocotyledons. University of Washington Press, Seattle.
The Western Aquatic Plant Management Society