• Spartina patens - Saltmeadow Cordgrass


    "Perennial, warm season grass with erect stems, mostly less than 40 inches tall. It spreads by long slender rhizomes. Leaves are less than 1/8 inch wide, sometimes flat but usually rolled inward from the edges with the upper surface inside. Spikes are two to seven, 3/4 to 2 inches long, and borne against or away from the stem. Native Habitat and Range: Salt marshes and sandy meadows from Quebec to Florida and Texas, and saline marshes inland from New York to Michigan."  (USDA)


    Spartina Patens Botany  by Save the Bay

    Faunal Associations: 

    "These grasses provide rich habitat for juvenile and adult crustaceans, mollusks, and birds, and serve as a major source of organic nutrients for the entire estuary. Mats of salt hay grass are inhabited by many small animals and are an important food source for ducks and sparrows." (Save the Bay).

    (1) Purple Marsh Crab (Sesarma reticulatum) "The larvae remain in estuaries during their development, providing food for predators." (Morgan) 

    (2) Saltmarsh sparrow (Ammospiza caudacuta)  "The saltmarsh sparrow is only found in tidal salt marshes along the Atlantic coast of the United States. It breeds along the northern coast, from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay, and winters along the southern coast, from North Carolina to Florida." (Greenlaw). "The saltmarsh sparrow prefers high marsh habitat, dominated by saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens) and saltmarsh rush (Juncus gerardii), which does not flood as frequently as low marsh." (Greenlaw)


    • Salt marshes serve as pollution filters and as buffers against flooding and shoreline erosion.
    • Many of the salt marshes in Rhode Island have been severely affected by filling, development, and road construction. These alterations restrict tidal flow, often having a severe ecological impact on the marsh. Because salt hay grass requires a salty, wet habitat, restricted tidal flow often dries out the marsh and encourages the growth of invasive plants.
    • Salt hay grass and smooth cordgrass are often out-competed for space by common reed in areas where human activity has disturbed or altered the marsh. Common reed is not as productive or beneficial to a salt marsh as cordgrass. (URI)

    In Art:


    (1) An example of a high marsh, an intertidal zone in which Spartina patens grows and plays an important role in ecology. This painting depicts a marsh on the coast of Northern Massachusetts. 



    Cover: "Spartina patens" by Marilee Lovit  (Copyright 2022), Permission received 24 January 2022.

    Second Cover: Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 1: 223. Courtesy of Kentucky Native Plant Society. Scanned by Omnitek Inc. - USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 1: 223. (Link)

    (1) "Sesarma reticulatum crab" by Esuglia at English Wikipedia, (Copyright 2013) CC BY-SA 3.0 

    (2) "Saltmarsh sparrow perched in the marsh" by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region, (Copyright 21 July 2020). Public Domain.

    (3) "Newburyport Meadows" By Martin Johnson Heade, (Created 1872–1878). Public Domain.

    USDA plant description:   USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Center Brooksville, FL Jan. 1996 https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/flpmcpgsppa.pdf


    The Uncommon Guide to Common Life on Narragansett Bay. Save The Bay, 1998. (Link)

    Morgan, Steven G. (1990). "Impact of Planktivorous Fishes on Dispersal, Hatching, and Morphology of Estuarine Crab Larvae"Ecology71 (5): 1639–1652. doi:10.2307/1937574JSTOR 1937574.

    GREENLAW, JON S.; RISING, JAMES D. (1994). "Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus)"The Birds of North America Onlinedoi:10.2173/bna.112.

    Greenlaw, Jon S.; Woolfenden, Glen E. (2007-09-01). "Wintering distributions and migration of saltmarsh and nelson's sharp-tailed sparrows". The Wilson Journal of Ornithology119 (3): 361–377. doi:10.1676/05-152.1ISSN 1559-4491S2CID 85846189.

    Conservation Information Author: Erik N. Vegeto

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