SMOOTH CORDGRASS (Spartina Alterniflora)
Spartina alterniflora is a hardy, native, halophyte tidal grass often used in shoreline restoration work. It has a tight root system that holds it in place very well and also traps sediment efficiently. This makes it effective at reducing erosive forces on shorelines. It also serves as habitat for many intertidal creatures such as juvenile sportfish, various arthropods, and many invertebrates. It does not take root naturally very easily, but propagates quickly when it does or when it is planted.
Spartina Grass is very important to estuary food web. Spartina is eaten by Manatees, Fiddler crabs, ribbed Mussels, insects. Spartina is also a habitat for many species, including commercial fish. Detritus and algae adhere to the grass, attracting small species, such as snails, which cling to and feed on it.
As the grass dies, it becomes a floating mass, called a wrack, and as it breaks down is eventually eaten by species such as clams, mussels, crabs, and snails.
This grass gives structural support for soft soil on islands; thus stabilizing the salt marsh, and is used today to repair damaged marshes. Spartina attracts Fiddler crabs, whose burrows increase soil drainage. Mussels attach to the base of the leaves.
Spartina filters out heavy metals and toxic materials from the water.
Spartina is a cover from predators for fish and crabs, and is a retreat and feeding place for wading birds and shorebirds.
Spartina grass is found in saltwater, growing from 16’’ to 8’ tall. Tolerant of salinity changes, tides and water depth. Grows via seedlings and vegetative shoots (rhizomes). Strong root system keeps it from washing away.