Plant Guide > Grasses > Marsh Spike Grass

Marsh Spike Grass

Marsh Spike GrassDistichlis spicata (L.)

On the salt marshes of midsummer grows a grass whose staminate and pistillate flowers are borne on separate stems, and, although plants of the two sexes are often scattered over the same ground, an acre or more is sometimes covered by stamen-bearing plants, while not far distant an pistillate spikes.

Marsh Spike-grass, or Salt-grass, as it is sometimes called, is one of the sand-binding grasses, spreading by strong rootstocks, and thriving even on the alkaline deserts of the interior where there is little vegetation, and where the presence of this grass is welcomed by thirsty travellers as a certain indication of water near the surface of the soil.

A tough wiry grass it is, like a denizen of inhospitable ground; the low stems, erect and rigid, bear stiff leaves and short, compact, spike-like panicles of straw-coloured blossoms.

Upon new land the straight rootstocks, according to Mr. Coville, send up their erect stems at intervals of about four inches, and until the grass is fully established these stems appear to cut the ground into triangles, quadrangles, and similar geometrical figures.

Marsh Spike-grass. Salt-grass. Distichlis spicata (L.)


Perennial, from creeping rootstocks.

Stern 6'-24' tall, wire, erect. Ligule a ring of short hairs. Leaves 1/2'-6' long, 1 "-2" wide, rather rigid, flat or involute.

Spike-like Panicle 1'-2 1/2' long, densely flowered. Staminate and pistillate flowers borne on separate plants. Spikelets 4-18-flowered, 4"-9' long, yellowish green, more numerous on staminate plants. Outer scales acute, unequal; flowering scales acute, broader and longer than empty scales. Stamens 3. Stigmas long.

Salt marshes and saline soils. June to August.

Maine to Florida and Texas, also on the Pacific coast, and in alkaline soil in the interior.