Plant Guide > Grasses > Marram Grass

Marram Grass

Marram GrassAmmo-phila arenaria (L.) Link.

From Virginia northward, along the Atlantic coast, the gray-green leaves of Marram Grass add their subdued colour to the pale sands. Where the forests advance toward the water's edge this grass occupies a narrow strip of shore between tides and trees; but where the sands have drifted inland, driving vegetation before them, Marram Grass often covers large areas and aids in arresting the encroaching desolation.

Although other plants are smothered by wind-blown sand, this grass, continuing to grow as the sand collects around it, is found on high dunes with whose rise it has kept pace.

The buried stems attain an incredible length, and the stout rootstocks, becoming matted and interwoven, prevent the drifting of sands, and resist the action of waves and winds which wage unceasing warfare against the land.

The value of Marram Grass as a sandbinder has long been recognized. Even in the reign of Elizabeth laws were passed in England for the preservation of this grass, and in America, in colonial days, the in habitants of certain towns in Massachusetts were obliged to plant Marram Grass each April, or suffer the penalty of their disobedience to law.

It is said that the harbour of Provincetown, Mass., owes its preservation to the Marram Grass committee which was authorized to demand the cultivation of this grass along the coast. Great has been the devastation caused by sand-storms on coasts where there are no sand-binding grasses.

Following the thoughtless pulling up of Marram Grass on a shore of Scotland, such a storm in the winter of 1769 was so destructive that apple trees, it is said, were buried and only their highest branches left above the surface of the drifts.

The long leaves of Marram Grass, or Beach Grass, as it is often called, are smooth on the outer surface, are finely ribbed within, and become involute in drying. The inflorescence is a cylindrical, spike-like panicle, composed of many one-flowered spikelets which
in bloom are fringed with white anthers. The grass may easily be recognized, even from a distance, by the characteristic colour of its leaves, so perfectly does the silver green accord with the silver sands.

Marram Grass. Beach Grass. Sea Sand-reed. Ammo-phila arenaria (L.) Link.

Perennial, from extensively creeping rootstocks.

Stem 2-4 ft. tall, stout, rigid, erect. Ligule a minute ring. Leaves 6'-24' long, 2"-6" wide, gray-green, smooth on lower surface, ribbed and rough on upper surface, soon involute.

Spike-like Panicle 5'-14' long, cylindrical, green, densely flowered, 5"-9" in diameter. Spikelets 1-flowered, 5"-6" long. Scales 3, compressed; outer scales about equal, acute; flowering scale nearly as long as empty scales and bearing a tuft of short hairs at the base; palet slightly shorter than flowering scale. Rachilla prolonged. Stamens 3, anthers white.

Sandy beaches along the coast. July to October.

New Brunswick to Virginia, also on the shores of the Great Lakes, and in California.