Smooth cordgrass

Smooth cordgrass

Spartina alterniflora

Common Name:

Smooth cordgrass

Scientific Name:

Spartina alterniflora

Alternative common names:

English cordgrass, rice grass, salt marsh grass.


Smooth cordgrass is adapted to living in salt marshes and estuaries and was found growing in the Great Brak estuary between Mossel Bay and George in 2004. Research shows that, if left unmanaged, the population in the Great Brak estuary could spread at a rate 0.162 hectares per year, possibly eventually covering 41% of the total vlei area. Currently, the plant occupies less than one hectare of the intertidal marsh.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of North America.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 1a

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Great Brak estuary in the Western Cape.

How does it spread?

Seeds and rhizome fragments are dispersed by ocean currents, wind and ships.

Why is it a problem?

It can invade mudflats and channels and convert this habitat to marshland.

What does it look like?

This long-lived grass spreads via fleshy, creeping, underground stems (rhizomes) and grows 30-130cm tall.

Leaves: Green or greyish-green leaves (10-45cm long) are long and narrow with flat or enrolled margins.

Flowers: Upright flowering stems are relatively stout (about 5mm thick) and usually hollow. The flowers are yellow-green.

Fruit/seeds: Seed heads (12-40cm long) have several contracted branches and end in a bristle up to 5cm long.

Does the plant have any uses?

It plays an important role in sediment stabilisation and serves as nursery grounds for estuarine fish and invertebrates.

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