"Short" form grows to 2 feet tall; "tall" form grows to 7 feet tall
Grows between the low- and high-tide marks in salt and brackish marshes, forming dense colonies that usually parallel the shoreline
Found along the shores of the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay and its tidal creeks and rivers.
Smooth cordgrass has smooth, blade-like leaves that taper to a point. The leaves grow 12 to 20 inches in length and one-half an inch wide. Tiny, white flowers bloom in July to September.
The plant 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.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Smooth cordgrass usually reproduces asexually. Its long, underground rhizomes (underground portions of a plant’s stem) spread and form new stems. Flowers mature into foot-long seed spikes in autumn.
Did You Know?
- Smooth cordgrass is also known as saltmarsh cordgrass. It is the dominant grass in the Bay’s salt marshes.
- The short form of cordrass is more common in slightly higher areas, while the tall form is more common in low areas that are flooded by tides every day.
- 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
- Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Life in the Chesapeake Bay by Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson
- PLANTS Database: Spartina alterniflora – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
- Spartina alterniflora – U.S. Forest Service