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Smooth Cordgrass

Spartina alterniflora

Smooth cordgrass forms dense colonies that usually run parallel to the shoreline. (Sandy Richard/Flickr)
Smooth cordgrass forms dense colonies that usually run parallel to 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 cordgrass has smooth, blade-like leaves that taper to a point. The leaves leaves grow 12 to 20 inches in length and one-half an inch wide. Tiny, white flowers bloom in July to September. It has round, hollow stems and a strong, interconnected root system. Smooth cordgrass 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, forming dense colonies that usually parallel the shoreline. The short form is more common in slightly higher areas, while the tall form is 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:

Smooth cordgrass usually reproduces asexually when its long, underground rhizomes spread and form new stems. Flowers mature into foot-long seed spikes in autumn.

Other Facts:

  • Smooth cordgrass is also known as saltmarsh cordgrass. It is the dominant grass in the Bay’s salt marshes.
  • This grass can be used to control shoreline erosion. It also provides important habitat for marsh periwinkles, ribbed mussels and fiddler crabs.

Sources and Additional Information:




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