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What Is Beach Grass?

American beach grass

Beach grass, with its graceful blades swaying in the coastal breeze, is a remarkable plant that plays a crucial role in coastal ecosystems around the globe, a true emblem of sandy landscapes.

But while this grass is vital for coastal ecosystems, its resilient and tenacious nature, with its extensive root system and ability to thrive in sandy conditions, can make it an unwelcome intruder in our carefully curated gardens, posing difficulties for gardeners looking to tame their landscapes.

Get ready to dive into the captivating world of beach grass, where we’ll explore its key features to help you identify it and effective strategies to help you eliminate it.

What Exactly Is Beach Grass?

Beach grass, scientifically known as Ammophila, is a genus in the Poaceae family, consisting of two sand-biding plants: American and European beach grass.

These two species are often found in coastal regions and share similar ecological roles in stabilizing dunes and protecting against erosion.

Here is a closer look at each type:

American Beach Grass

American beach grass
Source: Wikimedia

Here are some key aspects of American beach grass:

  • It is native to the Eastern coast of North America
  • Grows in dense tufts with erect stems
  • Reaches heights of 2 to 4 feet (60-120 cm)
  • It has narrow, rigid leaves and compact spikes of inflorescences with small flowers
  • Can withstand salt spray and sandy coastal conditions

European Beach Grass

European beach grass
Souce: Wikimedia

Here are some key aspects of European beach grass:

  • Native to the coastal regions of Europe, including the Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean.
  • Forms dense stands with erect stems
  • Can reach heights of 2 to 3 feet (60-90 cm)
  • Bluish-green or grayish-green long, narrow leaves
  • Can tolerate salt spray, wind, and shifting sands
Natural Beauty, Local Nuisance

American and European beach grass are considered invasive species in some regions outside their native range due to their ability to outcompete native vegetation and disrupt local ecosystems.

How To Identify Beach Grass?

Here’s how to identify beach grass.

Appearance

Beach grass has long, slender leaves reaching 1 to 4 feet (30-120 cm).

Their inflorescences grow at the tip of each stem, and they have long, cylindrical, and dense flowers.

It also has an extensive underground root system with specialized rhizomes.

These structures help to anchor the grass and stabilize it in dunes.

Environment

Beach grass is typically found in coastal regions, especially along sandy beaches, dunes, and coastal dune systems.

So, you’re most likely going to find them in sandy areas.

It also has adaptations that allow it to tolerate salt exposure, so it is often found in areas affected by salt spray.

Rhizome

Beach grass has an extensive network of rhizomes, underground stems that grow horizontally and give rise to new shoots and roots.

These rhizomes are typically thick and fleshy, ranging from whitish to pale yellow or brown.

Beach grass rhizomes extend outward from the base of the main plant, stretching several feet or meters, and form connections and nodes where shoots emerge.

Seed Dispersal

Beach grass spreads through its lightweight wind-borne seeds, which have feathery structures to aid their dispersal.

If you notice small, fluffy seeds being carried by the wind near sandy areas, it could indicate that beach grass is nearby.

How To Kill Beach Grass?

Beach grass
Source: Wikimedia

Despite its uses and benefits, such as helping to protect coastal environments, stabilizing dunes, and providing habitats for various organisms, beach grass can be an invasive specie for being able to compete with other valuable plants.

If you have a beach grass invasion, here are a few ways to get rid of it:

Method #1: Manual Pulling

By manually pulling beach grass, you can remove a significant portion of the rhizomes from the ground, disrupting the plant’s ability to grow and spread further.

It can also help to reduce seed production and weakens the plant over time, depleting its energy reserves and reducing its ability to photosynthesize. 

Method #2: Mowing or Cutting

Mowing or cutting beach grass reduces the above-ground biomass, including leaves, stems, and inflorescences, weakening the plants and limiting their growth and vigor.

You can typically cut or mow beach grass monthly or bimonthly during the growing season in summer or spring.

Maintain a cutting height of 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) above the ground.

Method #3: Herbicides

When using herbicides to control beach grass, it is essential to consult with local experts to identify the most suitable herbicide for your specific situation while minimizing potential harm to native plants and the environment.

These herbicides are best applied during the period of active growth.

It is important to wear protective equipment like gloves, goggles, and long sleeves.

Method #4: Professional Help

If the beach grass infestation is large and you’ve tried all the other methods and require specialized knowledge, seek assistance from a professional in land management.

They can provide guidance on the most appropriate methods for your specific situation.

Conclusion

Beach grass is a double-edged beauty: it helps stabilize sand dunes and supports coastal ecosystems, but it can be an unwanted intruder in your landscape.

However, with a bit of persistence and a lot of the strategies we’ve provided in this guide, you can reclaim your oasis with pride.

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