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Spartina Schreb.

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Genus Parent: Poaceae Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • CORD GRASS - English, United States of America
  • MARSH GRASS - English, United States of America
  • SLOUGH GRASS - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Diagnosis: Coarse perennials, rhizomatous or non-rhizomatous; culms erect, unbranched; ligule a fringe of hairs; leaf blades often involute, particularly upon drying; inflorescence a panicle of spike-like, appressed or slightly spreading branches; spikelets 1-flowered, strongly laterally compressed, closely spaced, sessile; disarticulation below glumes; glumes unequal, keeled; palea as long as or longer than the lemma.


Notes: A C₄ genus of 17–19 species of moist to wet, usually saline habitats (Barkworth 2003f), primarily of coastal America, Europe, and n Africa but sometimes in the interior; there is little morphological variation in the genus and the taxa are often difficult to distinguish (Clayton & Renvoize 1986). Preliminary molecular analyses (Hilu & Alice 2001) suggest a possible relationship between Spartina, Zoysia, and some species of both Eragrostis and Sporobolus. Spartina species are typically halophytic (= tolerant of salty or alkaline conditions), with one adaptation being the presence of salt-secreting hydathodes (salt glands) in the leaf epidermis (Levering & Thomson 1971; Oross & Thomson 1982; Clayton & Renvoize 1986). Some species have the tendency to spread and are considered noxious weeds in NC and OR (Kartesz 1999). Two species, S. alterniflora Loisel. and S. densiflora Brongn. (the former native to the e U.S., the latter to South America), have become established on the n Pacific Coast of the U.S. and “now threaten the health of many coastal marshes and mud flats” (Barkworth 2003f). (Greek: spartine, a cord, made from Spartium junceum, probably applied to Spartina because of the tough leaves— Barkworth 2003f) (subfamily Chloridoideae, tribe Cynodonteae)