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Smooth Cord-grass

Spartina alternifolia

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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, 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 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:
130 centimetres tall
Mudflats, saltmarshes, seaside, wetland.

Yellow, no petals
Yellowish-green flowers, slowly fading to brown later in the year. Spikelets are one-flowered and appear in clusters of 3 to 6 erect narrow spikes. The uppermost spike ends in a long bristle.
The fruit is a caryopsis which is a kind of dry, one-seeded fruit.
Long, linear, yellowish-green leaves which are 1.5cm (0.5 inches) broad at their bases, tapering into a point at their ends.
Other Names:
Saltmarsh Cordgrass, Salt-water Cordgrass.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Spartina alternifolia, also known as smooth cordgrass or salt marsh cordgrass, is a plant species in the Poaceae family. It is native to the eastern coast of North America, and is commonly found in salt marshes, tidal flats, and other coastal wetlands. Spartina alternifolia is a tall, perennial grass with thin, flat leaves and small, brownish flowers that bloom in the summer. It is an important plant in the ecosystem of coastal wetlands, as it helps to stabilize the soil and protect against erosion. It is also used in landscaping and erosion control, and is grown for its ability to tolerate salty soil and flooding.


Smooth Cord-grass, also known as Spartina alternifolia, is a species of grass that is commonly found along the coasts of North America and Europe. This plant is well adapted to grow in salty and brackish environments, making it an important part of many coastal ecosystems. In this blog, we will explore the characteristics, distribution, and ecological significance of Smooth Cord-grass.

Characteristics of Smooth Cord-grass

Smooth Cord-grass is a tall, clump-forming grass that can grow up to 6 feet in height. Its stems are smooth, green, and slightly flattened, and its leaves are narrow and elongated. The flowers of Smooth Cord-grass are arranged in spikes and are typically yellow or green in color.

Smooth Cord-grass is well adapted to the harsh conditions of coastal environments. It has a specialized root system that allows it to absorb salt from the soil, and its leaves are thick and leathery, which helps to reduce water loss in dry conditions.

Distribution and Habitat of Smooth Cord-grass

Smooth Cord-grass is found along the coasts of North America and Europe, and it is commonly found in salt marshes, tidal flats, and along the banks of estuaries and rivers. This plant is well adapted to the tidal fluctuations and high salinity levels found in these habitats, and it is an important part of many coastal ecosystems.

Ecological Significance of Smooth Cord-grass

Smooth Cord-grass plays a critical role in the coastal ecosystem. It helps to stabilize the shoreline and prevent erosion, and it provides habitat and food for a variety of wildlife, including birds, insects, and small mammals.

Additionally, Smooth Cord-grass is an important part of the carbon cycle, as it helps to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. This process is important for mitigating the effects of climate change, as it helps to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Smooth Cord-grass is a valuable species of grass that plays a critical role in many coastal ecosystems. Its ability to grow in salty and brackish environments makes it an important component of many tidal flats, salt marshes, and estuaries, and its ecological significance cannot be overstated. If you are interested in learning more about the natural history of coastal ecosystems, or if you would like to learn more about the important role that plants play in our environment, then consider exploring the world of Smooth Cord-grass.

Human Interactions with Smooth Cord-grass

Smooth Cord-grass has also been utilized by humans for a variety of purposes. Historically, it was used as a source of fuel and forage for livestock, and it was also used for construction, as the stems of the plant can be woven into baskets, mats, and other household items.

Today, Smooth Cord-grass continues to be used for a variety of purposes, including erosion control and wetland restoration. In coastal areas, it is often used to stabilize the shoreline and prevent erosion, as the dense mats of vegetation help to trap sediment and reduce the impact of waves and currents. Additionally, it is used in the construction of salt ponds, as it helps to remove excess salt from the water and improve water quality.

In some areas, however, Smooth Cord-grass has become an invasive species, outcompeting native vegetation and altering the composition of coastal ecosystems. In these cases, efforts are being made to remove the plant and restore native habitats.

Conservation and Management of Smooth Cord-grass

Smooth Cord-grass is an important part of many coastal ecosystems, and it is essential that we protect and manage this species to ensure its continued survival. In some areas, populations of Smooth Cord-grass have declined due to habitat destruction, overgrazing, and the impact of invasive species. To help conserve this species, it is important to protect and manage coastal habitats, and to monitor populations of Smooth Cord-grass to ensure that they remain healthy and viable.

Additionally, it is important to research and understand the impacts of human activities on coastal ecosystems, such as the effects of climate change and sea level rise, so that we can develop effective strategies for conservation and management.

Smooth Cord-grass is a valuable species that plays a critical role in many coastal ecosystems. Whether we are using it for erosion control, wetland restoration, or simply appreciating its natural beauty, it is important that we protect and conserve this species for future generations. By working together to understand and manage this important species, we can ensure that it remains a vital part of our coastal heritage for years to come.


In conclusion, Smooth Cord-grass (Spartina alternifolia) is a versatile and ecologically significant species of grass that plays an important role in many coastal environments. Its ability to grow in salt and brackish habitats and its ecological significance make it a valuable component of many tidal flats, salt marshes, and estuaries. Additionally, its uses for erosion control, wetland restoration, and other human purposes highlight its versatility and practicality.

However, as with many species, human activities can sometimes have negative impacts on Smooth Cord-grass populations. Invasive species, habitat destruction, and overgrazing can all have negative effects on this species, and it is important that we work to mitigate these impacts through conservation and management strategies.

By learning more about Smooth Cord-grass and the important role that it plays in coastal ecosystems, we can help to ensure its continued survival and ecological significance for future generations. Whether you are a scientist, a conservationist, or simply a lover of nature, Smooth Cord-grass is a species that is well worth exploring and protecting.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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