This animation presents 1 year of data gathered between March 2000 and March 2001 at Pirates Beach located on Galveston Island Texas. The species represented in the change over time are presented in detail in this section.

Cordgrass Species Spotlight


Marshhay, Cordgrass, Salt Meadow Cordgrass, Wiregrass
Spartina patens

Description: Perennial, low to medium height, erect, spreading or creeping grass 1-3 ft tall often covering large portions of dunes forming cow-licked mats. Stems slender, stiff and hollow occurring singly or in small clusters from creeping roots or in dense tufts or clumps from non-creeping roots. Leaves linear and narrow (1-4 mm) and often rolled or turned in at the margins, open terminal inflorescence (panicle, up to 8 in long) usually composed of three to six spikes (4/5-2 in long), alternately arranged and diverging from main axis at 45-60 degree angles, each with 20-50 densely overlapping spikelets (1/5-1/2 in long) on one side of the axis. Flowers bearing 2-7 branches at 45 degree angle to main stem. Flowering from June to Oct.

Habitat: Irregularly flooded salt, brackish and tidal fresh marshes, borders of salt marshes, inland saline areas, coastal salt marshes, backshore near sand dunes, windward and leeward slopes of dunes, vegetation-stabilized sands and flats, and damp to wet fresh water areas near coast.

Distribution: Along the coast of Texas, Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast from Quebec to Florida; inland in New York and Michigan

Status: Excellent dune stabilizer and utilized as grass for grazing cattle in salt marches. Snow geese sometimes eat rhizomes. Marks the highest elevation along the crest.

Bitter Panicum Species Spotlight

Bitter panicum, Beach panic

Bitter panicum, Beach panic
Panicum amarum

Description: Perennial grass with rhizomes rooting at nodes. Large green or purplish stem which grows despite sand burial up to 3 ft high and 1 cm thick. Multiple leaf blades 5-12 mm broad. Large compact, densely flowered seed heards. Terminal panicle is compressed. Flowers from Sept to Dec but the seeds are largely sterile as primary reproduction occurs by vegetative processes.

Habitat: Dominates backshore and lower foredunes and extends over the dunes toward the leeward vegetated flats. Favors exposed areas where windblown sand accumulates.

Distribution: Mexico to New Jersey

Status: Important dune stabilizer plant which is planted by stems or rootstock. Seeds on wild stock are sterile but U.S. NRCS has developed viable seeds. Favorite livestock forage. Depleted by grazing o Texas barrier islands.

The NBII Program is administered by the Biological Informatics Program of the U.S. Geological Survey
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