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Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass

Puccinellia distans

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Poaceae (Grass)
Also in this family:
Alpine Catstail, Alpine Foxtail, Alpine Meadow-grass, Annual Beard-grass, Annual Meadow-grass, Arrow Bamboo, Barren Brome Grass, Bearded Couch Grass, Bearded Fescue, Bermuda Grass, Black Bent, Black Grass, Blue Fescue, Blue Moor-grass, Bog Hair-grass, Borrer's Saltmarsh Grass, Bread Wheat, Bristle Bent, Brown Bent, Brown Sedge, Bulbous Foxtail, Bulbous Meadow-grass, California Brome Grass, Canary Grass, Carnation Sedge, Cocksfoot, Cockspur, Common Bent, Common Cord-grass, Common Millet, Common Reed, Common Saltmarsh Grass, Compact Brome Grass, Corn, Couch Grass, Creeping Bent, Creeping Soft-grass, Crested Dog's-tail, Crested Hair-grass, Cultivated Oat, Curved Hard Grass, Cut Grass, Dense Silky Bent, Downy Oat-grass, Drooping Brome Grass, Drooping Tor Grass, Dune Fescue, Early Hair-grass, Early Meadow-grass, Early Sand-grass, False Brome Grass, False Oat-grass, Fern Grass, Fine-leaved Sheep's Fescue, Flattened Meadow-grass, Floating Sweet-grass, Foxtail Barley, French Oat, Giant Fescue, Glaucous Meadow-grass, Great Brome Grass, Greater Quaking Grass, Grey Hair-grass, Hairy Brome Grass, Hairy Finger-grass, Hard Fescue, Hard Grass, Harestail Grass, Heath Grass, Holy Grass, Hybrid Marram Grass, Italian Rye Grass, Knotroot Bristlegrass, Lesser Hairy Brome Grass, Lesser Quaking Grass, Loose Silky Bent, Lyme Grass, Marram Grass, Marsh Foxtail, Mat Grass, Mat-grass Fescue, Meadow Barley, Meadow Fescue, Meadow Foxtail, Meadow Oat-grass, Mountain Melick, Narrow-leaved Meadow-grass, Narrow-leaved Small-reed, Neglected Couch Grass, Nit Grass, Orange Foxtail, Pampas Grass, Perennial Rye Grass, Plicate Sweet-grass, Purple Moor-grass, Purple Small-reed, Purple-stem Catstail, Quaking Grass, Ratstail Fescue, Red Fescue, Reed Canary Grass, Reed Sweet-grass, Rescue Grass, Rough Meadow-grass, Rush-leaved Fescue, Sand Catstail, Sand Couch Grass, Scandinavian Small-reed, Scottish Small-reed, Sea Barley, Sea Couch Grass, Sea Fern Grass, Sheep's Fescue, Silver Hair-grass, Six-rowed Barley, Slender Brome Grass, Small Cord-grass, Small Sweet-grass, Smaller Catstail, Smooth Brome Grass, Smooth Cord-grass, Smooth Finger-grass, Smooth Meadow-grass, Soft Brome Grass, Somerset Hair-grass, Sorghum, Spreading Meadow-grass, Squirreltail Fescue, Stiff Brome Grass, Stiff Saltmarsh Grass, Sweet Vernal Grass, Tall Fescue, Timothy Grass, Tor Grass, Tufted Hair-grass, Two-rowed Barley, Upright Brome Grass, Velvet Bent, Viviparous Fescue, Wall Barley, Wavy Hair-grass, Wavy Meadow-grass, Whorl Grass, Wild Oat, Wood Barley, Wood Fescue, Wood Meadow-grass, Wood Melick, Wood Millet, Yellow Oat-grass, Yorkshire Fog
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
80 centimetres tall
Roadsides, rocky places, saltmarshes, seaside, walls, wetland.

Green, no petals
Erect flower spikes. The length of the spikelets is between 1.5 and 2.5mm. Wind-pollinated.
The fruit is a caryopsis.
Flattened, pointed leaves. Up to 7mm wide.
Other Names:
European Alkali Grass, Hauptian Alkaligrass, Saltmarsh Saltgrass, Saltmarsh Wiregrass, Sweet Grass, Weeping Alkaligrass.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Puccinellia distans is a species of grass in the Poaceae family. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North America, and is commonly known as saltmarsh saltgrass or saltmarsh wiregrass. It typically grows in salt marshes and on sandy shores, and is well-adapted to salt and tidal conditions. It has a fibrous root system and forms dense tufts of leaves. The leaves are typically about 20-80 cm long and 2-4 mm wide. It produces spikes of flowers that are greenish or reddish in color. The plant is an important food source for wildlife, particularly migratory waterfowl.


Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass, also known as Puccinellia distans, is a plant species that thrives in coastal environments, particularly in saltmarshes, tidal creeks, and estuaries. This grass species is known for its ability to withstand and thrive in harsh coastal conditions, including high levels of salt and flooding. In this blog post, we will explore some of the key characteristics and benefits of Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass.

Appearance and Physical Characteristics

Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass is a perennial grass that typically grows to a height of 20-80 cm. Its leaves are long and narrow, with a blue-green color and a distinct vein running down the center. The plant produces dense, cylindrical flower spikes that can range from 2 to 10 cm in length. The flowers themselves are small and greenish-white in color.

Ecological Benefits

Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass plays a crucial role in coastal ecosystems. Its ability to tolerate saltwater and thrive in marshy conditions makes it an important stabilizing force in wetland environments. It helps to prevent erosion by holding sediment in place with its extensive root system. Additionally, the grass provides habitat and food for a variety of wildlife species, including birds, insects, and small mammals.

In addition to its ecological benefits, Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass has practical uses as well. Its tough, fibrous stems and leaves can be used for thatching and weaving. The plant's ability to thrive in saltwater makes it a potential candidate for use in phytoremediation, a process in which plants are used to clean up polluted environments.


Like many coastal species, Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass is facing a number of threats. Climate change and rising sea levels are causing increased flooding in saltmarshes, which can impact the growth and survival of the plant. Human activities such as development and dredging can also disturb or destroy saltmarsh habitats, further exacerbating the species' vulnerability.

Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass is a remarkable species with important ecological and practical benefits. Its ability to thrive in harsh coastal conditions makes it a valuable asset in wetland ecosystems, and its fibrous stems and leaves have potential uses in traditional crafts and environmental remediation. However, like many coastal species, Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass is facing numerous threats and challenges that must be addressed in order to ensure its continued survival and preservation of the coastal ecosystems it helps to support.

More Information

Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass is distributed across Europe, Asia, and North America, and is found in coastal areas along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic coasts. It is a relatively common plant species in saltmarshes and estuaries in these regions, and is an important component of these wetland ecosystems.

The plant is able to tolerate high levels of salt and flooding due to its specialized physiology. It has a unique system of salt glands on its leaves that allow it to excrete excess salt, and its extensive root system helps it to access nutrients and water even in waterlogged soils. These adaptations allow Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass to thrive in environments that would be inhospitable to many other plant species.

In addition to its ecological and practical uses, Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass also has cultural significance in some regions. In the past, the plant has been used for medicinal purposes, and its seeds were sometimes used as a food source by indigenous peoples.

One interesting aspect of Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass is its interactions with other species in its habitat. The plant provides habitat and food for a variety of wildlife, including birds such as the Saltmarsh Sparrow and the Clapper Rail, which nest in the dense vegetation created by the grass. In turn, these birds help to disperse the plant's seeds, aiding in its reproduction.

Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass is also an important host plant for several insect species, including the Saltmarsh Skipper butterfly and the Common Buckeye butterfly. These insects lay their eggs on the grass, and their caterpillars feed on the plant's leaves. This relationship is an example of the important ecological connections that exist between different species in a habitat.

Another interesting aspect of Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass is its ability to influence soil chemistry. The plant is able to accumulate large amounts of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, in its tissues. As these nutrients accumulate, they can alter the chemistry of the soil, making it more hospitable for other plant species to grow. This process is known as nutrient enrichment, and it can have important implications for the structure and function of saltmarsh ecosystems.

Overall, Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass is a complex and important species with a wide range of ecological and practical benefits. As we continue to study and learn more about this plant, we will likely discover even more ways in which it contributes to the health and resilience of coastal ecosystems.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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