Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Spartina patens


SPECIES: Spartina patens
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Walkup, Crystal J. 1991. Spartina patens. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : SPAPAT SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : SPPA COMMON NAMES : saltmeadow cordgrass couchgrass marshhay marshhay cordgrass wiregrass TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for saltmeadow cordgrass is Spartina patens (Aiton) Muhl. There are no recognized subspecies, varieties, or forms [33]. LIFE FORM : Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Spartina patens
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Saltmeadow cordgrass is found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Newfoundland to Texas [9]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak - pine FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress FRES41 Wet grasslands STATES : AL DE FL GA ME MD MA MS NH NJ NY NC PA RI SC TX VA NB NF NS BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K073 Northern cordgrass prairie K078 Southern cordgrass prairie K090 Live oak - sea oats K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest K113 Southern floodplain forest SAF COVER TYPES : 65 Pin oak - sweetgum 81 Loblolly pine 82 Loblolly pine - hardwood 89 Live oak 101 Baldcypress - tupelo 103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo 104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay 105 Tropical hardwoods SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Spartina patens
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Saltmarsh meadows, composed primarily of saltmeadow cordgrass, served as a natural pasture for stock in pioneer days, and are currently grazed to a limited extent [9]. They also provide important habitat for muskrats, mink, otters, and alligators. Under climax conditions, vegetation becomes too dense for waterfowl but provides homes for a host of song birds and other wildlife species [1]. Nutria eat the rhizomes in late summer and winter [20]. Blue geese and snow geese feed on new foliage early in the spring in burned marshes [18]. Geese will only use smooth cordgrass pastures with new growth, and some management is required (ie. burning) to maintain attractive wild goose pastures [24]. The coarse stems provide a highly desirable lodge-building material for muskrats [15]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Immature plants of saltmeadow cordgrass provide moderate amounts of digestible protein for livestock (6.9 to 7.3 percent), but as plants mature, protein decreases, and the calcium/phosphorus ratio is high, reducing phosphorus metabolism [23]. COVER VALUE : Saltmeadow cordgrass provides nesting cover for waterfowl and song birds, as well as protective cover for nutria, muskrats, mink, and otters [27,30]. Muskrats are able to weather storm tides and high water as a result of the protective cover offered by saltmeadow cordgrass and other tall marsh vegetation [27]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : Hay harvesting of marshes composed primarily of saltmeadow cordgrass was formerly an important industry in the New England and Middle Atlantic coastal marshes [30]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Proper stocking of saltmeadow cordgrass pastures is required to avoid increasing saltgrass (Distichlis spicata), an undesirable forage species [1]. Nesting cover may be destroyed when these pastures are cut for hay [30]. Saltmeadow cordgrass appears to be resistant to increases in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Photosynthesis, nitrogen content, and water use all remained unchanged in an experimental elevation of the carbon dioxide level [21]. Cattle trample muskrat lodges and runways, causing muskrats to emigrate to other marshes. For optimum muskrat production, cattle should be fenced out of the marsh [18].


SPECIES: Spartina patens
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Saltmeadow cordgrass is a tufted, perennial, warm-season grass. Height ranges from 1 to 5 feet (0.3 to 1.5 m). Growth is solitary or in small clumps from widely spreading, slender, wiry rhizomes [9,28]. Root aerenchyma develop in response to flooding in existing and newly developed roots [4]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Saltmeadow cordgrass reproduces both by seed and rhizomes. Flowers are wind-pollinated [16]. High percent germination was obtained with a 65 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 35 deg C) alternating diurnal thermoperiod [22]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Saltmeadow cordgrass grows in brackish marshes, low dunes, sand flats, beaches, overwash areas, and high salt marshes [5,9,25,28]. Normal annual precipitation averages 47 to 59 inches (119-150 cm). Two major edaphic conditions are found where saltmeadow cordgrass dominates. One occurs on peat deposits of varying depths. The other is mineral soil of outwash material or soils deposited by tidal and wave action [1]. Saltmeadow cordgrass is found exclusively in brackish marshes in Louisiana and is by far the most frequent and abundant grass, probably constituting over 50 percent of the total marsh vegetation. Although it dominates brackish marshes, it is very rare in saline marshes. Salt content of the soil water where it grows ranges from 0.12 to 3.91 percent. However, its greatest abundance is reached where salinity and water levels are lowest [26]. Saltmeadow cordgrass, needle rush (Juncus roemerianus), and saltgrass are the 3 dominants in brackish marshes. Saltmeadow cordgrass is the least tolerant of salt and is replaced by the other two in strongly saline areas [27]. In New England salt marshes, the most predictable plant zonation occurs at the mean high water line, separating the low and high marsh habitats. Saltmeadow cordgrass dominates the seaward border of the high marsh habitats. Smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) dominates the low marsh habitats because it is more able to oxygenate its roots in reduced soils than saltmeadow cordgrass. Black-grass (Juncus gerardii) competitively excludes saltmeadow cordgrass from the terrestrial border [3]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Saltmeadow cordgrass is dominant in the saltmeadow marsh, the third stage of salt marsh succession. Olney threesquare (Scirpus americanus) is codominant in the fresher portions. Needle rush is the most important subdominant in the more saline areas. Saltgrass is a common secondary species. Edaphic climaxes where saltmeadow cordgrass forms a heavy mat of vegetation occur if the marsh is not burned frequently [18]. Root burns cause Olney bulrush and saltmarsh bulrush (Scirpus robustus) temporarily to dominate saltmeadow cordgrass. The rushes have a deeper root system, sprout more quickly following fire, and grow at a faster rate than saltmeadow cordgrass. They remain dominant for 2 or 3 years until saltmeadow cordgrass crowds them out [13]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Flowering of saltmeadow cordgrass varies from June to September in the Carolinas [9,28], May to October in Florida [7], and May to November in Texas [16]. In Louisiana saltmeadow cordgrass blooms once in the spring and once in the fall due to the long frost-free season [18].


SPECIES: Spartina patens
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Saltmeadow marshes were burned historically by muskrat trappers to facilitate trapping. Fires also occurred naturally from spontaneous combustion and lightning strikes [32]. Burns conducted when the soil is wet and wind absent cause little damage. But burns conducted in periods of extended drought cause the peaty humus to burn severely, resulting in the destruction of both active and dormant plant parts and a lowering of the marsh level, reverting it to a more hydric community [27]. Saltmeadow cordgrass is adapted to light fires and sprouts from rhizomes [17,27]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil


SPECIES: Spartina patens
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : The immediate effect of fire on saltmeadow cordgrass is removal of aboveground vegetation. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : The Research Project Summary Vegetative response to fire exclusion and prescribed fire rotation on 2 Maryland salt marshes provides information on prescribed fire and postfire response of plant community species, including saltmeadow cordgrass, that was not available when this species review was written. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Saltmeadow cordgrass will survive a cover burn [See Fire Management], but the rhizomes of some plants will be destroyed by a root burn occurring with a heavy accumulation of vegetation. Surviving rhizomes will not sprout for 2 or more weeks following a root burn [13]. Saltmeadow cordgrass is also temporarily disadvantaged by less intense fires. Faster growing rushes (Scirpus spp.) overtake cordgrass in the first few years following a fire [18,27]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : Culm regrowth following fire is generally slow, requiring 8 weeks to reach preburn density. Air temperatures below 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 deg C) greatly reduced culm production of saltmeadow cordgrass. Photoperiod also affected culm development, with regrowth rate after December 21 more than twice the rate prior to December 21 [6]. Following a July fire in Georgia saltmeadow cordgrass reached 70 to 100 percent cover 14 months after the burn and up to 140 percent cover by 26 months postburn. The fire had burned off all the soil organic matter leaving only bare sand and graminoid clumps [8]. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Three classes of marsh fires are generally recognized: (1) Cover burns are light burns designed to remove vegetation debris. They are undertaken only when sufficient water is present to prevent damage to plant root systems. Prescribed cover burns are usually conducted from October 15 to March 1. (2) Root burns are hot fires which develop in a relatively dry marsh. These fires alter the composition of the vegetation. (3) Peat burns, the most drastic type of marsh fire, burn holes in the marsh floor, providing additional water areas. Several years accumulation of vegetation, a fairly deep peat layer, and drought conditions which have dried out the peat are required to produce a peat burn [17]. Cover burns are most often used for management since the other two types are known to be destructive to the marsh habitat [12].


SPECIES: Spartina patens
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Ecological processes and vegetation of the maritime strand in the southeastern United States. Botanical Review. 20: 226-262. [10730] 26. Palmisano, Angelo W., Jr.; Newsom, John D. 1968. Ecological factors affecting occurrence of Scirpus olneyi and Scirpus robustus in the Louisiana coastal marshes. Proceedings, 21st Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissions. 21: 161-172. [15303] 27. Penfound, W. T.; Hathaway, Edward S. 1938. Plant communities in the marshlands of southeastern Louisiana. Ecological Monographs. 8(1): 3-56. [15089] 28. Radford, Albert E.; Ahles, Harry E.; Bell, C. Ritchie. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1183 p. [7606] 29. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 30. Smith, Robert H. 1942. Management of salt marshes on the Atlantic Coast of the United States. Transactions, 7th North American Wildlife Conference. 7: 272-277. [14505] 31. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. [11573] 32. Viosca, Percy, Jr. 1931. Spontaneous combustion in the marshes of southern Louisiana. Ecology. 12(2): 439-443. [14582] 33. Gleason, Henry A.; Cronquist, Arthur. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York: New York Botanical Garden. 910 p. [20329] 34. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090]