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Wasowski, Sally and Andy
Spartina alterniflora Loisel.
Saltmarsh Cordgrass, Smooth cordgrass, Salt cordgrass
Poaceae (Grass Family)
Synonym(s): Spartina alterniflora var. glabra, Spartina alterniflora var. pilosa
USDA Symbol: SPAL
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
The dominant grass in coastal plains of eastern North America, Saltmarsh Cordgrass grows 3 to 8 feet tall in moist, sandy coastal regions that are brackish to very salty. Its leaves are green with silvery white undersides. Flowers are 4 to 12 inch spikes appearing late summer through fall, with seeds ripening soon after. Roots are deep and fibrous, with rhizomatous colonization.
A great plant for wildlife gardens in coastal areas of eastern North America, Saltmarsh Cordgrass requires full sun, moist to wet, preferably sandy soil, and lots of room, as it tends to form thick mats over time. The silvery undersides of its leaves are attractive in the wind and make a handsome addition to a coastal prairie garden, especially when combined with fall-blooming perennials like goldenrod and gayfeather.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Grass/Grass-like Root Type: Fibrous Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Leaf Complexity: Simple Leaf Venation: Parallel Inflorescence: Spike Fruit Type: Caryopsis Size Notes:
Normally 3 to 6 feet tall, but can grow to 8 feet, or can remain at less than 2 feet if ground is extremely salty. Leaf:
Green with silvery underside Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr , May
, WA Canada: NB
, PE Native Distribution:
Atlantic Provinces of Canada south to coastal Texas and south to South America. Zones 5 to 9. Native Habitat:
Salt and brackish tidal marshes (mid-tide up to Mean High Tide level). Also seasonally flooding coastal savannah with scattered Coastal Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana
Growing ConditionsWater Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Wet
Soil pH: Alkaline (pH>7.2) , Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Drought Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Clay, Loam, Sand, Brackish to Salty
BenefitUse Ornamental: The dominant grass in Southeastern coastal areas, this grass would do well in coastal prairie gardens. Its silvery leaves combine well with fall-blooming perennials like Liatris and Solidago.
Use Wildlife: Geese feed on roots in winter. Leaves browsed by muskrats and deer. Seeds eaten by a variety of birds.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Deer Resistant: No
PropagationPropagation Material: Root Division
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Mr. Smarty Plants says
When to plant grasses on Long Island, NY
December 06, 2009
Dear Mr. Smarty Plants;
Are there any grass seeds that I can plant NOW, early December, on Long Island, NY? The planting environment is on and near a sandy bluff on a bayshore, where it can be windy ...
view the full question and answer
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
Record Last Modified: 2013-09-12
Research By: TWC Staff