Smooth Cordgrass

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Smooth Cordgrass

Spartina alterniflora

Range/Geographical Distribution: Along the east coast from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  Also found on the west coast from Washington to California.

Habitat: Saltmarshes. 

Description: A large, coarse, green grass specially adapted to live in a saline environment. 

Size: Can reach eight feet in height.

Breeding: Exhibits sexual and vegetative reproduction.

Predators/Ecological Importance: Smooth cordgrass acts as a pollution filter and helps buffer the shoreline against flooding and erosion. It is eaten by West Indian manatees, snow geese, and muskrats.  These grasses provide an attachment for ribbed mussels and provide cover for many birds, small mammals, fish, and shellfish.

Conservation Status: Considered an invasive species in Washington, Oregon, and California.

Interesting Facts: Periwinkle snails are often seen on the stems of smooth cordgrass.  These animals create wounds on the leaves of the grass which then grow a fungus.  The periwinkle snails consume the fungus.

On the Coast: Smooth cordgrass can be found in large, dense stands in the saltmarshes along Georgia’s coast.  Dead cordgrass stems, called wrack, wash up on beaches and help to form dunes.  Mats of wrack within the marsh create habitat for crabs, snails, and juvenile diamondback terrapin turtles

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