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Smooth Cordgrass

Spartina alterniflora

Smooth cordgrass forms dense colonies that usually parallel the shoreline. (Sandy Richard/Flickr)
Smooth cordgrass forms dense colonies that usually parallel the shoreline. (Sandy Richard/Flickr)

Smooth cordgrass is a native perennial grass with flat, blade-like leaves. It grows in low-lying, salt and brackish tidal marshes along the shores of the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay.

Appearance:

  • Smooth, blade-like leaves that taper to a point
  • Leaves grow 12-20 inches long and one-half an inch wide
  • Round, hollow stems
  • Tiny, white flowers that bloom in July-September
  • Strong, interconnected root system
  • Grows in two forms: a short form that grows to 2 feet tall, and a tall form that can reach 7 feet tall

Habitat:

  • Grows between the low- and high-tide marks in salt and brackish marshes
  • Forms dense colonies that usually parallel the shoreline
  • Short form more common in slightly higher areas
  • Tall form more common in low areas that are flooded by tides every day

Range:

  • Found along the shores of the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay and its tidal creeks and rivers

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Usually reproduces asexually when its long, underground rhizomes spread and form new stems
  • Flowers mature into foot-long seed spikes in autumn

Other Facts:

  • Also known as saltmarsh cordgrass
  • The dominant grass in the Bay’s salt marshes
  • Used to control shoreline erosion
  • Provides important habitat for marsh periwinkles, ribbed mussels andfiddler crabs

Sources and Additional Information:




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