Spartina patens (Zone 3)   1 comment

Zone 3: Spartina patens

 

 

 

A. General Information:

The Spartina alterniflora Zone is generally followed by the Spartina patens Zone. In turn the Juncus geradii Zone may follow the Spartina patens Zone. Sea water completely covers Spartina patens plants several times each month. This was observed at 9:30 AM on Monday August 7th, 2010 (9.1 feet above the mean tide level) when sea water extended into the marsh border.

B. Description of Spartina patens

 

 

Spartina patens (Salt Meadow Cord grass)(Poaceae, Grass Family)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spartina_patens

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SPPA

 

 

This erect species, about 1 meter or less in height, has thin hairless stems and leaves. The thin, tapering leaves are about 2-3 mm wide and have in-rolled edges. It has been suggested that in-rolled leaf edges help prevent water loss. S. patens can displace S. alterniflora with its phalanx type of growth. Rhizomes (Underground Stems) grow a short distance from the parent plant and then give rise to new roots, stems and leaves forming a dense turf (Shown Above) that is difficult for other plant species to penetrate. The reproductive, purplish spike is similar to S. alterniflora and S. pectinata. Spartina patens is restricted to a higher position on the marsh because of its inability to tolerate decreased oxygen levels like those found in areas occupied by S. alterniflora. This species is also less tolerant of higher salinities than S. alterniflora. Salt meadow cordgrass is harvested in some locations as a nutritional supplement for cows and horses.

 

Adaptations:

1. Formation of a dense turf that makes it difficult for other plant species to establish themselves.

2. Inwardly rolled leaves that may help prevent water loss.

 

 

C. Plants Often Associated with Spartina patens

 

 

Distichlis spicata (Spike Grass or Salt grass)(Poaceae, Grass Family)*

 http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Distichlis_spicata

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=DISP

* This species is discussed first because of its abundance.

 

 

Spike grass may be intermixed with salt meadow cordgrass, however it may replace the latter as shown in the first photograph. It has rigid (Stiff), erect, solid stems, about 0.5 meters in height. Narrow, hairy, pointed leaves arise along the length of the stem. Excess salt is removed from water inside the plant by salt glands on the leaf. Air is passed from leaf to root through a series of interconnected “tubes” (Aerenchyma) allowing the plant to live in sediments with low oxygen levels. Note the beautiful purple flowers in the next to last photograph. Spike Grass seeds, leaves and roots are consumed by waterfowl, shorebirds, small mammals and deer.

Adaptations:

1. Salt glands that remove excess salt from water circulating internally.

2. Ability to move air from leaf to root.

 

Many of the following plants can be found in other

saltmarsh zones

 

Family Apiaceae (Carrot Family)

 

Angelica lucida (Wild Celery or Seacoast Angelica)

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angelica_lucida

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=anlu

Seaside Angelica is an erect plant, about 0.3 to 1 meter tall. The alternate pinnate leaves are each divided into three, toothed sections.  The whitish, small flowers are arranged in a terminal umbel. Each flower has 5 small sepals, 5 petals and 5 stamens. The leaves have been used externally to control pain and to treat colds and coughs as well as for other medicinal uses.

 

 

Family Asteraceae (Aster Family)

 

a. Solidago sempervirens (Seaside Goldenrod)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solidago 

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SOSE

 

Seaside goldenrod has an erect stem about 0.7 meters tall. The lance-shaped leaves are simple, entire, and are shorter towards the top of the plant. This species can be found in all of the zones especially along the edge of creek banks. Seaside goldenrod is also discussed in zone 6.

 

 

 

Adaptations:

1. Seaside goldenrod flowers towards the end of summer thus avoiding competition with earlier flowering plants.

2. The seeds, shown above, are distributed by the wind thus ensuring that a number of them will reach a suitable growing environment. This also has the added benefit of distributing the species to new locations.

 

Symphyotrichum tenuifolium (Aster tenuifolius), (Salt Marsh Aster)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphyotrichum

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SYTE6

 

 

Salt Marsh Aster has an erect, smooth, fleshy stem, about 0.5 meters tall. Leaves are lance-shaped and smaller distally. Light purple petals (15-25) surround a central yellow disc. This species is more abundant in the upper marsh and along the marsh border.

 

 

Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot Family

 

a. Atriplex patula ( Common Orach)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atriplex_patula

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ATPA4

 

 

Common orach has an erect, grooved stem that branches from the base of the plant. Light green triangular leaves have a basal lobe on each side. Leaves are arranged alternately on the stem. Small greenish flowers are arranged in clusters. Leaves and stems can be eaten raw or steamed.

Adaptations:

1. The ability to remove salts from internal fluids.

 

b. Salicornia maritima (Glasswort)

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salicornia

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SAMA11

 

This succulent species colonizes bare areas and vegetated locations within both Spartina Zones. Glasswort, about 13 cm high, has an erect, jointed, main stem with jointed lateral branches. The leaves, formed at each joint, are reduced to scales. The stem arises from a taproot. The plant turns bright red in the fall. Sodium is concentrated in cell vacuoles, allowing Salicornia to draw relatively freshwater osmotically into the plant. Consequently, this species has a salty taste and is often used as a flavoring agent in soups and salads.

 Adaptations:

1. Responds to high salt concentrations by forming cells with greater volume such that salt taken into these cells is effectively diluted to non toxic levels. This is typical in succulent plants.

 

Cyperaceae, Sedge Family

 

a. Cladium mariscoides (Twig-rush)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cladium

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=CLMA

 

 

The erect stems, about 1 meter in height, are slightly triangular in cross section. Horizontal underground rhizomes that extend laterally give rise to new plants which are genetically the same as the parent. The long, narrow leaves are about 20 cm long and 1.3 cm wide. Flowers formed on spikelets are covered by brown scales.

 

Adaptations:

1. A horizontal rhizome (Underground Stem) that anchors the plant in the marsh and gives rise to genetically identical plants at each node.

2. The ability to reproduce large numbers of individuals asexually from underground stems.

3. Dense growth that tends to crowd out competing species.

 

b. Eleocharis parvula (Spike Rush)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleocharis

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ELPA5

 

Spike Rush is characterized by its thin erect short (about 6 cm high) stems some of which bear terminal, lance-shaped, red/brown flower spikelets. The flowers are covered by brown scales. Leaves are reduced to leaf sheathes. Rhizomes, shown below, allow the plant to quickly colonize new areas.

Adaptations:

1. A horizontal rhizome (Underground Stem) that anchors the plant in the marsh and gives rise to genetically identical plants at each node.

2. The ability to reproduce large numbers of individuals asexually from underground stems.

3. Dense growth that tends to crowd out competing species.

 

c. Schoenoplectus (Scirpus) robustus (Salt Marsh Bulrush)

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schoenoplectus

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SCRO5

  

 

 

 The erect stem is about 2 meters high. It has a robust, creeping rhizome that gives rise to new plants that are genetically identical to the parent, at each node. The long leaves, about 1.3 cm wide, taper to a point. Tiny flowers. covered with brown scales, are formed in spikelets (4 shown above). Leaf-like bracts arise just below the spikelets.

Adaptations:

1. A robust horizontal rhizome (Underground Stem) that anchors the plant in the marsh and gives rise to genetically identical plants at each node.

2. The ability to reproduce large numbers of individuals asexually from underground stems.

3. Dense growth that tends to crowd out competing species.

 

Juncaginaceae (Arrow Grass Family)

 

Triglochin maritima (Northern Sea-side Arrow Grass)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triglochin

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=TRMA20

 

 

This species is an erect plant about 0.75 meters tall. The fleshy leaves arise from the base of the plant. Fertile stalks bear a terminal spike of green flowers. Fruits, shown above, are elongated capsules each containing six seeds. This plant contains cyanogenic glycosides that release cyanide when chewed. For this reason, it is poisonous to herbivores.

 

Adaptations:

1. Arrow grass forms clumps that are raised above the marsh surface. Shallow roots are formed here allowing access to atmospheric oxygen. This helps to prevent waterlogging due to prolonged exposure to seawater.

2. Formation of cyanogenic glycosides that are poisonous to many herbivores.

 

 

Plantaginaceae (Plantain Family)

 

Plantago maritima (Seaside Plantain)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantago

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=PLMA3

 

Seaside plantain is an erect, succulent (stores water in the leaves) plant about 0.3 cm tall. The lance-shaped basal leaves are about 20 cm long. The leaf is rounded in cross section on its upper surface and grooved below. Fertile stalks bear a spike of yellow flowers as shown below. The plant sap from shredded leaves has an astringent quality and has been used to moderate the effects of exposure to poison ivy and insect bites. Leaf tea is said to be an effective treatment for diarrhea.

 

Adaptations:

1. Extremely salt tolerant.

 

Plumbaginaceae (Leadwort Family)

 

Limonium carolinianum (Sea-Lavender or Marsh Rosemary)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limonium

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=LICA17

    

 

Sea-Lavender is an erect plant about 0.5 meters high with simple, entire, lance-shaped leaves about 15 cm long. A single inflorescence (Flower Bearing) on a fertile stalk extends above the leaves. Note the bluish-purplish flowers. This species is salt tolerant. It accumulates salts (Mainly Sodium) in leaf cell vacuoles and after flowering the leaves with accumulated salt tend to fall away. The fertile stalks with flowers are often collected, dried, and added to floral displays. This practice often has a negative impact on species survival.

 

Adaptations:

1. Salt accumulates in the basal leaves protecting the rest of the plant from salt damage. When salt levels in the leaves are high they are shed from the plant.

 

Poaceae (Grass Family)

 

a. Agrostis gigantea (Red Top Grass)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agrostis_gigantea

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=AGGI2\

  

 

  

 

 

Red top Grass is abundant here as well as in the upper marsh zone. The unbranched stem is about 0.75 meters high and bears a terminal inflorescence that clings tightly to the stem early in the season when the plant is immature. During flower formation it opens up as shown above. Note the characteristic red to purple color of the spikelets. Later in the season the spikelets turn a creamy white color.

Adaptations:

1. Horizontal underground stems (Rhizomes) that give rise to new genetically identical plants along its length.

2. Grows well in disturbed habitats.

3. Tolerates a wide range of climates.

 

b. Festuca rubra (Red Fescue Grass)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festuca_rubra

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=FERU2

  

 

 

 

 

Red fescue Grass is abundant here as well as in the upper marsh zone. The unbranched stem is about 0.5 meters high and bears a terminal inflorescence consisting of red-purple colored spikelets. Later in the season the color fades. The narrow, linear leaves, about 2 mm wide, are mostly basal. The leaf edges tend to roll inward.

 

Adaptations:

1. Horizontal underground stems (Rhizomes) that give rise to new genetically identical plants along its length.

2. Grows well in disturbed habitats.

3. Tolerates a wide range of climates.

 

c. Hierochloe odorata (Vanilla Grass or Sweet Grass)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hierochloe_odorata

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=HIOD

  

 

 

 

 

Vanilla Grass produces a compound (Coumarin) that smells like vanilla. Coumarin is used in perfumes and as a blood thinner. It also has anti-cancer and anti-fungal properties. This species has an erect stem about 60 cm high with a terminal loosely arranged inflorescence. The lower branches of the inflorescence tend to droop. The smooth basal leaves are about as long as the stem. Vanilla Grass is one of the first plants to flower in the early spring. This species is also abundant in the Spartina patens zone.

Adaptations:

1. Horizontal underground stems (Rhizomes) that give rise to new, genetically identical plants along its length.

2. Grows well in disturbed habitats.

 

d. Hordeum jubatum ( Squirrel-tail or Foxtail Barley)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hordeum_jubatum

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=HOJU

  

 

Foxtail Barley, has erect, smooth stems about 0.5 meters in height. An inflorescence (Reproductive Spike) is borne at the end of the stem. Note the long projections (Awns) extending from this grass .

 

Primulaceae (Primrose Family)

 

Glaux maritima (Sea Milkwort)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glaux

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=GLMA

  

 

 

Sea Milkwort is a low growing succulent species with opposite leaves (approximately 9mm long and 2 mm wide). Note the small white-pink flowers that originate in leaf axils. The flowers have 5 petals. Boiled roots have been used to treat insomnia.

 

Adaptations:

1. Responds to high salt concentrations by forming cells with greater volume such that salt taken into these cells is effectively diluted to non toxic levels. This is typical in succulent plants.

 2. Has salt secreting glands that remove excess salt from internal fluids.

 

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

 

Argentina anserina (Potentilla) anserina (Silverweed)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentina_anserina

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ARAN7

 

 

 

 

Silverweed is a low growing species that has reddish stolons (Above-Ground Stems) that extend horizontally over the marsh surface. The plant forms roots, stems and leaves at nodes along the stolon. The basal, compound leaves, about 7 cm long, are pinnate. They are green above and white below (white hairs). White hairs are also found on the stem and stolons. The roots are edible and an herbal tea made from plant parts has been used to treat diarrhea.

Adaptations:

1. Robust above ground stems that produce new individuals at nodes along its length allowing the species to occupy new space quickly.

2. Compound leaves that provide a large surface area (proportionally) that can trap more sunlight allowing increased photosynthesis.

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Posted January 15, 2011 by zottoli

One response to “Spartina patens (Zone 3)

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  1. Do common spike-rushes have to have flowers… or can they just have spikes? I am asking this, because I found a plant that looks exactly like the common spike-rush, but there are no flowers present. Is this due to the fact that it is the flowers are now out of season or could it possibly be a different type of plant??

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