Spartina alterniflora - Smooth Cordgrass
"Smooth cordgrass is a large, coarse, warm-season grass, which is
physiologically adapted to the salt marsh habitat [26,27]. Plants
growing under good conditions reach 8 feet (2.5 m) tall, while those
growing in the high salt marshes, especially at edges of salt pans, may
be only 16 inches (40 cm) tall, including the inflorescence . A
dense stand of this tall grass is like a small forest of dark green
plants. Almost no light gets through to the mud beneath the stand.
Tidal currents are strong where the best growth occurs and wash away
dead leaves, leaving stands clean and free of debris most of the year
"Smooth cordgrass forms dense, monospecific stands in salt and brackish
marshes with mid to high tide levels [6,27,30]. It dominates where
salinities range from 3 to 5 percent and the average water table is 4
inches (10.2 cm) above ground level. Plants may be inundated with salt
water for up to 20 hours per day. Unlike most other marsh plants, the
salt-tolerance of cordgrass is directly proportional to water depth .
Smooth cordgrass thrives in anoxic, low marsh habitats due to its
ability to oxygenate its roots and rhizosphere. Rhizosphere oxidation is
not evident in seedlings and small colonizing patches. Both of these
groups are stunted in anoxic low marsh substrates. This suggests that
success of smooth cordgrass in anoxic habitats is size dependent and may
be driven by group benefits of rhizosphere oxidation ." (Walkup, USDA)
Spartina Alterniflora Botany - USDA species information
Botanical illustration of Spartina alterniflora. (Hitchcock et. el)
- Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=455326
Spartina alterniflora in the salt marsh, Sapelo Island, Georgia, USA Photograph taken by Graham D. Schuster, 29 May 2005
- Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina alterniflora. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
[2022, January 31].
"Spartina alterniflora on Jerusalem salt marsh Rhode Island" is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
- Hitchcock-Chase Collection of Grass Drawings, courtesy of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa., on indefinite loan from the Smithsonian Institution. for USDA Agriculture Yearbook, Fig. 19.
Information and images compiled by Erik N. Vegeto
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