Upper Marsh (Zone 5)   Leave a comment

Zone 5: Upper Marsh

A. General Information (Upper Marsh):

The upper marsh hosts a greater number of plant species than all of the previous zones combined. This is due to the fact that environmental conditions are more favorable here. Seawater reaches this area only several times each month and in many instances, rainwater runoff provides a constant source of freshwater. Also the soil is usually well aerated making oxygen readily available to root systems. The species are listed by family in alphabetical order. Sea water reaches this area several times each month. For example, a 9.1 foot high tide inundated plants here on Monday August 7th 2010.Dominant plant species are discussed first, followed by less abundant organisms.

B. Dominant Plants

Family Asteraceae (Aster Family)

 

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 also be found in all of the zones especially along the edge of creek banks as shown above.

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 benefit of distributing the species to new locations.

Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)

a. Schoenoplectus pungens (Scirpus americanus) (Sharp-pointed Three Square)

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

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SCPU10

 

The long triangular upright stems are about 1-2 meters high. Thin leaves extend from the lower part of the stem. Small flowers situated on bud like spikelets (about 5) are situated near the stem tip. Roots pass from the stem base into the sediment. Horizontal underground stems (rhizomes) can be extended from the base of one plant and then form new plants that are genetically identical to the original. Seeds are a source of food for waterfowl. Roots can be eaten raw or cooked. Stems are also edible but the fibrous outer layer must be first removed. Each has a high starch content.

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.

 

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

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

The erect stem is about 2 meters high. Salt Marsh Bulrush has a robust, creeping rhizome that gives rise to new plants, 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 below). Leaf-like bracts arise just below the spikelets. This species often forms a thick stand just below reed grass or Narrow leaf cattail. Roots and stems, are edible as discussed for S. americanus above.

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.

 

c. Carex paleaceae (Chaffy Sedge)

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

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=CAPA29

Chaffy Sedge often grows in a separate zone above Spartina patens or Distichlis spicata. It is characterized by the slightly drooping reproductive spikes and their scruffy appearance later in the season. It is one of the first marsh plants to flower.

Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Vaccinium macrocarpon (American Cranberry)

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

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

 

 

This sprawling evergreen shrub bears oval leaves, about 2 cm long, that alternate along the stem. The pink-white flowers shown above have four re curved petals. Cranberry juice has been used to treat urinary tract infections. The principal ingredient in cranberry sauce is the berry from this species.

Juncaceae (Rush Family)

 

Juncus arcticus (Baltic Rush)

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

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

This species is characterized by its erect, round, unbranched stems, about 1 meter tall and 2 mm wide. Leaves appear to be absent however the basal leaves are reduced to sheathes around the stem. Flower clusters emerge from the upper portion of the stem as shown above. The seeds provide food for waterfowl, songbirds and small mammals.

 

Poaceae (Grass Family)

 

a. Phragmites australis (Common Reed Grass)

http://en.wikipedia.com/wiki/Phragmites_australis

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=PHAU7

 

 

 

 

Reed Grass is an erect plant, about 3 meters tall, with hollow stems. Thick horizontal underground stems (Rhizomes) give rise to new plants, genetically identical to the parent, at nodes along its length. Long, lance-shaped leaves about 5 cm wide, extend upward. Terminal purple flower clusters develop during the summer that turn brownish later in the summer. In the early spring, emerging stems are edible. They can be eaten raw or steamed. Rhizomes contain edible starch however the rhizomes must be pounded repeatedly to separate the starch from the fibrous tissue. Reed Grass seeds can be ground into flour.

 

b. Spartina pectinata, Freshwater Cord Grass

http://en.wikipedia.com/wiki/Spartina_pectinata

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

 

 

Freshwater cord grass is an erect species, about 2-3 meters tall, that arises from a robust rhizome (Underground Stem). The lance-shaped, alternately arranged leaves are almost as long as the stem. They arise from the plant base. Note the fringed hairs where the grass blade joins the blade sheath (Ligule). The terminal floral spikes are similar to those in S. alterniflora and S. patens. Seeds and roots are consumed by songbirds, shorebirds and small mammals.

 

Adaptations:

1. Robust horizontal underground stem (Rhizome) that gives rise to new genetically identical plants along its length.

2. The ability to crowd out competing species of plants.

 

Typhaceae (Cat-tail Family)

 

Typha angustifolia (Narrowleaf Cattail)

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

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

 

 

 

Narrow leaf cattail is an erect plant about 2 meters high. Leaves, about 1.2 cm wide, arise from the base of the plant. They are curved on their outer surfaces and flat on their inner. Rhizomes give rise to new individuals that are genetically identical to the parent. Two brown cylindrical spikes are positioned at the top of the stem separated by a short distance. The upper spike bears male flowers and the lower female flowers. Later in the season as the female spike falls apart, the small seeds are trapped in a fluffy white fibrous material and then distributed across the marsh by wind. The white rhizomes are edible, however the starch must be separated from the tough fibers by repeated pounding. Roots have been used to make a concoction to treat cuts, burns and other skin conditions. Female spikes collected early in the season can be eaten raw or made into a pleasant tasting jelly. In the early spring, emerging stems can be eaten steamed or raw. Dried leaves have been woven into mats by native Americans. Smoke from burning dried leaves is an effective insect repellent.

 

Adaptations:

1. Robust horizontal underground stem (Rhizome) that gives rise to new genetically identical plants along its length.

2. The ability to crowd out competing species of plants.

3. Formation of seeds that can be carried by the wind allowing broad distribution.

 

C. Less Abundant Plants

 

Anacardiaceae (Cashew Family)

 

Toxocodendron radicans ( Poison Ivy)

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

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

 

In this location poison ivy generally grows as a vine; however it can also grow as a shrub, tree or climbing vine. It has stalked compound leaves with 3 leaflets arranged alternately on the stem. The leaves and stems produce a compound called urushiol that adheres to the skin and causes an allergic reaction in many individuals.

 

Family Asteraceae (Aster Family)

 

Symphyotrichum tenuifolium (Aster tenuifolius) (Slender-leaved Aster)

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

 

This species has an erect, smooth, fleshy stem, about 0.5 meters tall. Leaves are lance-shaped and tend to be smaller distally. Light purple petals (15-25) surround a central yellow disc.

 

Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)

 

a. Carex hormathodes (Marsh-Straw Sedge)

http://en.wikipedia.com/wiki/Carex

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=CAHO8

 

The Marsh-Straw Sedge forms thick clumps about 1 meter in height. The spear-shaped leaves are long and narrow. The flowers, covered by brown scales with pointed tips (Awns) , are contained in oval spikes toward the end of stems.

 

Adaptations:

1.This species forms clumps that are raised above the marsh surface. Shallow roots are formed here allowing access to atmospheric oxygen. This helps to prevent water logging due to prolonged exposure to water.

 

b. Carex crinita

http://en.wikipedia.com/wiki/Carex

   http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=CACR6

 

  

 

 

This species grows in clumps as shown below. The long lance-shaped leaves arise from the base of the plant. The reproductive spikes hang downward (Droop).

 

Adaptations:

1. This species forms clumps that are raised above the marsh surface. Shallow roots are formed here allowing access to atmospheric oxygen. This helps to prevent water-logging due to prolonged exposure to water.

 

Myricaceae (Wax-myrtle Family)

 

Myrica pensylvanica (Morella pensylvanica) (Northern Bayberry)

 http://en.wikipedia.com/wiki/Myrica_pensylvanica

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=MOPE6

 

 

Northern bayberry is an erect, spreading shrub, about 1.5 meters high with numerous stems. The leaves, about 5 cm long, are simple, green, shiny on top and hairy underneath. The leaf also is leathery. Gray, waxy fruit (Nutlets) arranged in clusters are shown above. Bacteria in root nodules fix atmospheric nitrogen that can be used by the host to manufacture proteins and other substances. Dried bayberry leaves can be substituted for bay leaves to flavor sauces, soups, stews and other dishes. Tea made from leaves, bark or roots has been used to treat colds and as an astringent and stimulant. Wax candles can be made from bayberry leaves.

 

Poaceae (Grass Family)

 

a. Calamagrostis spp. (Reed Bent Grass)

http://en.wikipedia.com/wiki/Calamagrostis

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

 

Roots stem and leaves arise from an underground horizontal stem (rhizome). The erect stems, about one meter high, grow in clumps. Flowers emerge at the tip of the stem in what is called an inflorescence (Reproductive Spike). The inflorescence is composed of many spikelets each of which contains one flower. The terminal inflorescence droops slightly.

 

b. Elymus (Agropyron)(Elytrigea)repens (Quack Grass)

http://en.wikipedia.com/wiki/Elymus_repens

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ELRE4

 

 

 

The erect stems are about 1.5 meters tall and the reproductive spikes are about 10 cm in length. Long, lance-shaped leaves arise from the plant base. A concoction made from quack grass has been used to treat colds and infectious bronchitis as well as several other maladies.

 

c. Elymus virginicus (Virginia Rye Grass)

http://en.wikipedia.com/wiki/Elymus_virginicus

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ELVI3

 

 

Virginia rye grass has an erect stem with a terminal, unbranched reproductive spike, about 15 cm long. The spike has numerous spikelets along its length with long pointed extensions (Awns), shown clearly in the second photograph, giving the spike a bushy appearance. Long lance-shaped leaves, about 0.8 cm wide, extend upwards; the leaf edges tend to be inwardly rolled.

 

d. Hierochloe odorata (Vanilla Grass or Sweet Grass)

Http://en.wikipedia.com/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.

 

e. Panicum virgatum (Red Switch Grass)

http://en.wikipedia.com/wiki/Panicum_virgatum

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=PAVI2

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Red switch grass is an erect grass, about 1 meter tall, that grows in thick tussocks (Clumps). New individuals arise from robust underground horizontal stems (Rhizomes). Long, lance-shaped leaves, about 0.5 meters long and 2 cm wide, taper gradually to a point. The terminal inflorescence is open and multi-branched with numerous reddish and brown, stalked spikelets. The seeds are consumed by a variety of birds, deer, muskrat and rabbits.

 

Adaptations:

1. Switch Grass forms clumps that are raised above the marsh surface. Shallow roots are formed here allowing access to atmospheric oxygen. This helps to prevent water-logging due to prolonged exposure to seawater.

 

f. Thinopyrum pycnanthum (Agropyron pungens) (Wheat Grass)

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=THPY4

 

Wheat grass has an erect stem about 0.75 meters in height. Thin rhizomes (Underground Stem) give rise to new plants that are genetically identical to the parent. Grey-green, elongated, linear leaves, about 1.3 cm wide, arise from the stem base. Flowers are formed in a terminal reproductive spike, about 10 cm long. The juice from wheat grass has been used to treat bronchitis and laryngitis as well as bladder infections.

 

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

 

Spiraea alba (Meadow-sweet)

 http://en.wikipedia.com/Spiraea_alba

 http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SPAL2

 

 

Meadow-sweet has an erect stiff stem about 1 meter high. Lance-shaped leaves with  serrated (Toothed) margins, arise alternately from the stem. Clusters of small, white, rose-like, flowers emerge at the top of the stem. Herbal tea, made by steeping leaves in boiling water, has been used to reduce fever and inflammation. The active ingredient in leaves is methyl salicylate which in high concentrations can be toxic.

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Posted January 15, 2011 by zottoli

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