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Mr. Smarty Plants - Salt tolerant plants for shade on tidal inlet in NY

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Sunday - August 11, 2013

From: Sag Harbor, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Erosion Control, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Salt tolerant plants for shade on tidal inlet in NY
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Are there any salt water tolerant grasses or forbs with deep roots that grow in shade? I live on a tidal inlet/canal on Long Island NY. The southern bank has cedars and oaks but the soil is eroding concavely, exposing the tree roots. I may have to add soil tubes but don't know what plants would grow in the shade to hold them in place. The tidal range is 3 feet.

ANSWER:

For most grasses, shade tends to be a problem.   There are several grasses that will do well with salt tolerance, but not with shade tolerance [e.g., Distichlis spicata (Saltgrass)].  However, I have compiled a list of several grasses, forbs and small shrubs that are reported to be salt tolerant and will grow in partial shade using the following sources:

GRASS/GRASS-LIKE:

Spartina patens (Marsh-hay cord grass)  Here is more information from Plant Fact Sheet from USDA NRCS.

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass) will grow in part shade.   Here is a Plant Fact Sheet from USDA NRCS.

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem) will grow in part shade and is moderately salt tolerant.

FORBS:

Limonium carolinianum (Carolina sealavender) grows in part shade.  Here are more photos and information from Go Botany.

Symphyotrichum tenuifolium (Perennial saltmarsh aster) will grow in part shade.  Here are photos and more information from Connecticut Wildflowers.

SHRUBS:

Baccharis halimifolia (Groundseltree) grows in part shade from 5 to 12 feet.  Here is more information from North Carolina State University.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick) is evergreen and is low-growing in sun or part shade.  Here is more information from University of Connecticut-Horticulture.

Morella pensylvanica [synonym=Myrica pensylvanica] (Northern bayberry) is a shrub of 3 to 12 feet that grows in part shade.  Here is more information from the University of Florida.

Rosa carolina (Carolina rose) grows in part shade to 1 to 3 feet high.

I don't know exactly how much shade you have, but I think your main problem is finding plants that will grow in full shade that are also salt tolerant.  Additionally, the tidal range of 3 feet may be a serious problem with some of these plants.  The Relative Salt Tolerance of Coastal Species list may help you determine exactly which species will do best.   You can check the light requirements for various plants on any of the lists by searching (using the scientific name) in our Native Plant Database.

Best of luck!

 

From the Image Gallery


Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Big bluestem
Andropogon gerardii

Carolina sealavender
Limonium carolinianum

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Groundseltree
Baccharis halimifolia

Northern bayberry
Morella pensylvanica

Carolina rose
Rosa carolina

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