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Common Saltmarsh Grass

Puccinellia maritima

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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, 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, Reflexed Saltmarsh 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:
50 centimetres tall
Roadsides, saltmarshes, seaside.

Green, no petals
Spikelets have up to 10 flowers each. 3 anthers.
A caryopsis.
A variable perennial, often tuft-forming. Greyish-green leaves, tinged with red, purple or yellow.
Other Names:
Maritime Saltmarsh Grass, Sea Alkali-grass, Sea Poa Grass, Seaside Alkaligrass.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Puccinellia maritima, commonly known as maritime saltmarsh grass or sea alkali-grass, is a species of grass that is native to coastal regions of the northern hemisphere, including parts of North America, Europe, and Asia. It is a perennial grass that typically grows to a height of 30–50 cm and forms dense, tufted clumps. The leaf blades are typically 2–5 mm wide and the inflorescence is a spike-like panicle that can be up to 15 cm long.

This species is commonly found in salt marshes and other coastal saline habitats, such as salt meadows and tidal mudflats. It is highly salt-tolerant and can also grow on nutrient-poor soils. The plant can survive in submergence for short period of time and can grow in waterlogged soils. Because of its high salt tolerance, it is considered a valuable plant for revegetation of salt-impacted soils and also it's an important species in coastal ecosystem as it can provide habitats for various species. Additionally, it is useful for coastal stabilizing and erosion control.


Common Saltmarsh Grass, also known as Puccinellia maritima, is a perennial plant that is commonly found in salt marshes and estuaries along coastal regions of Europe and North America. This grass is an important component of these ecosystems, providing habitat for a wide range of organisms and contributing to the overall health of the ecosystem. In this blog, we will explore the characteristics of Common Saltmarsh Grass and its importance in coastal environments.

Physical Characteristics of Common Saltmarsh Grass

Common Saltmarsh Grass is a medium-sized grass that typically grows up to 50 cm in height. It has a clumping growth habit and a deep root system that allows it to tolerate the harsh conditions of salt marshes. The leaves of Common Saltmarsh Grass are narrow and linear, with a bluish-green color. The flowers are small and inconspicuous, and are borne on slender stems that emerge from the leaf axils.

Importance of Common Saltmarsh Grass in Coastal Environments

Common Saltmarsh Grass plays an important role in coastal environments. It provides habitat and food for a variety of organisms, including birds, insects, and small mammals. The deep root system of Common Saltmarsh Grass also helps to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. In addition, this grass plays a key role in nutrient cycling, as it takes up nutrients from the soil and releases them back into the ecosystem when it decomposes.

Common Saltmarsh Grass is also important in the context of climate change. Salt marshes are known to be effective carbon sinks, and Common Saltmarsh Grass is a major contributor to this process. As the grass takes up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, it stores this carbon in its roots and the surrounding soil. This makes salt marshes and the plants that grow in them important allies in the fight against climate change.

Threats to Common Saltmarsh Grass

Despite its importance, Common Saltmarsh Grass is facing a number of threats. One of the main threats is habitat loss, as coastal development and sea level rise continue to encroach on salt marshes. In addition, pollution from agricultural runoff and other sources can harm Common Saltmarsh Grass and the organisms that depend on it. Climate change is also a major threat, as rising temperatures and sea levels can alter the conditions in salt marshes and make it difficult for Common Saltmarsh Grass to survive.

Common Saltmarsh Grass is a vital component of coastal ecosystems, providing habitat, stabilizing the soil, and contributing to nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration. However, this important grass is facing a number of threats, and it is important that we take action to protect it and the ecosystems in which it grows. By working to reduce pollution, mitigate climate change, and protect coastal habitats, we can help to ensure the continued survival of Common Saltmarsh Grass and the many other organisms that depend on it.

More Information

Common Saltmarsh Grass, Puccinellia maritima, is a highly adaptable plant that can tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions. It is commonly found in estuaries and tidal flats where it is subject to frequent flooding, high salt concentrations, and other harsh conditions. The deep root system of Common Saltmarsh Grass allows it to survive in these conditions, as it is able to access water and nutrients from deep in the soil.

One of the unique features of Common Saltmarsh Grass is its ability to take up and store large amounts of salt. This helps the plant to maintain water balance in its cells, which is essential for survival in saline environments. The ability of Common Saltmarsh Grass to tolerate high salt concentrations also makes it an important plant for phytoremediation, or the use of plants to remove pollutants from soil and water.

Common Saltmarsh Grass is an important food source for many species of birds, including the Saltmarsh Sparrow and the Nelson's Sparrow. These birds depend on the grass for nesting and foraging, and their populations are in decline due to habitat loss and other threats. In addition, Common Saltmarsh Grass provides habitat for a wide range of insects and small mammals, which are important components of the salt marsh ecosystem.

Despite its importance, Common Saltmarsh Grass is facing a number of threats. Coastal development, sea level rise, and other forms of habitat loss are major threats to this plant and the ecosystems in which it grows. Pollution from agricultural runoff and other sources can also harm Common Saltmarsh Grass and the organisms that depend on it. Climate change is another major threat, as rising temperatures and sea levels can alter the conditions in salt marshes and make it difficult for Common Saltmarsh Grass to survive.

In addition to its ecological importance, Common Saltmarsh Grass has also been used for a variety of human purposes. Historically, the grass was used for thatching roofs and making baskets and mats. It was also used as fodder for livestock, as it is rich in nutrients and can grow in areas where other crops cannot.

Today, Common Saltmarsh Grass is still used in some traditional crafts, such as weaving and basketry. It is also used in ecological restoration projects, where it is planted to help stabilize eroding coastlines and restore degraded salt marsh habitats.

Common Saltmarsh Grass is a fascinating and important plant with a wide range of ecological and human uses. However, its survival is threatened by a variety of human activities and environmental factors. It is important that we take action to protect this valuable plant and the ecosystems in which it grows, in order to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for ourselves and for the many other species that depend on these coastal habitats.

Another interesting aspect of Common Saltmarsh Grass is its ability to store carbon. Like many other plants, Common Saltmarsh Grass takes in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and converts it into organic matter. However, because of the harsh conditions in which it grows, the grass can store this carbon for much longer periods of time than plants that grow in more hospitable environments. This makes Common Saltmarsh Grass an important player in carbon sequestration and a potential tool for mitigating climate change.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in using Common Saltmarsh Grass and other coastal plants as a means of carbon capture and storage. Researchers are exploring ways to harness the carbon sequestration potential of salt marshes and other coastal habitats, such as through the creation of blue carbon credits or other market-based mechanisms. These efforts could provide a new source of income for coastal communities while also helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Overall, Common Saltmarsh Grass is a remarkable plant with a wide range of ecological, cultural, and economic values. While it faces a number of threats, including habitat loss, pollution, and climate change, there is still much that can be done to protect and conserve this valuable species. By working together to promote sustainable coastal development, reduce pollution, and mitigate the impacts of climate change, we can help to ensure a bright future for Common Saltmarsh Grass and the many other species that depend on these unique coastal habitats.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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