Growing Plants

A Full List Of Marsh Grass Types – Gardeners Should Know

Marsh grass types are invaluable for wildlife and humans as they protect their wetlands from erosion and contribute to invasive species management.

By preventing water flow into their wet and swampy areas (saltwater intrusion), they contribute to the nutrition-rich sediments.

Since it plays an important role in plant species richness, consider using this marshy grass whenever you need to make or restore a healthy wetland in your area.

It’s not difficult to find the suitable one from specialized plant nurseries.

Below is some basic information about this coarse plant and a list of its types for your reference. Let’s get started!

What Are Marsh Grasses?

marsh grass types
Marsh Grasses Types

What Are They?

Marsh grass, also known as saltmarsh grass or cordgrass, belongs to the family Poaceae and has a wide range of plant species diversity.

It’s among one of the 16 types of perennial marsh grasses, making up the vast majority of plantations of saltmarsh environment.

The benefits of marsh plants are amazing. Thanks to its presence, a great swath of vegetation is formed.

They can enrich its living areas by stabilizing the coastal tidal muds and keeping the wetland from erosion and mass invasion of other species.

Where Do They Live?

Salt marsh grasses are abundantly available on tidal mud flats, marshes, or anywhere between the mainland and the barrier islands in Africa, Europe, and North America.

Sometimes, you can find some types of swamp grass at some inland sites.

Try to look at the roadsides where salt is spread in cold weather or search for the area obtaining high-salt-content soil due to the exceeding of evaporation over precipitation; you may spot them there.

A suitable place to grow the plant should meet the following requirements:

  • “Full sun”: the area should ensure at least six hours of direct sun exposure during the day. Sometimes, you can use grow lights as direct/indirect sunlight.
  • The sandy soil must consist of little to no mud or clay deposits.
  • The shorelines should not often experience high wave action.
  • The plant is best grown on gradual, graded shorelines, especially on a flat area within the  intertidal zone.
  • There’s enough space to place the bare-root plants. The distance between one to another should be around 12 to 18 inches, and the space is enough to grow two to three rows.

How To Recognize Them?

The salt marsh grass is an erect, tough and wiry plant, usually growing in clumps. Their height ranges from 1 to 10 feet (0.3 to 3 meters), and they are often filled with salty water due to the ocean tides.

They have long salt-resistant flexible leaves and short flower spikes, mostly seen in the upper parts of the stems. The rhizomes spreading underground is a key factor in growing new plants.

For more details of each type of saltmarsh cordgrass, keep following on to the section below.

List Of Marsh Grass Types

salt marsh grass
Series Of Marsh Grass

Common Cattails

The first and most common type of salt-marsh plant is Common Cattails or Typha latifolia.

People also call them North American cattails as they are the major “citizens” on the edges of freshwater marshes and estuaries in the area, where the water is shallower.

The coarse plant has a soft stem and pale gray-green leaves. Its stems are around 3 to 10 feet tall, and its flower spikes are cylindrical brown, mostly growing on the top of the stems.

This semi-aquatic or aquatic plant usually bears flowers in May and June with a large quantity of 268,000 seeds per flower spike.

Oyster Grass

The second candidate in our marsh plant communities is Oyster Grass, also known as Spartina Alterniflora or smooth cordgrass.

This invasive marsh grass, Spartina grass, belongs to the Gramineae family of perennial plants.

Their stems develop to 2 – 4 feet tall, hollow, and hairless. The spikes are only 2-3 inches, making its flowers hard to see.

It’s a common coastal marsh plant, one of the native species that make miles of beauty along its living coasts.

Taller types usually grow along the bank, while the stunned varieties prefer to stay in the interior of the coastal marshes. Oyster grass expands very quickly, especially in spring and summer.

Generally, the best place to grow this dominant plant is in full sun or partial shade near lakes or water gardens, or in soil of 1-18 inches under water, but not outside the intertidal zone.

It can stand any type of soil (even clay) except organic ones.

Detering soil erosion is the main purpose of developing Spartina Alterniflora as it can deflect the incoming waves, one of the reasons for shoreline and bank erosion.

Besides, this coastal resident captures the sediments, keeps the soil staying on the shorelines, and protects the area.

Remember that smooth cordgrass is attractive to animal species, such as grazing animals, so if you have newly grown plants, cage them well until they become a big enough colony.

Spike Grass

The next salt marsh cordgrass group member is Spike grass (Distichlis spicata), a perennial marsh grass belonging to the Poaceae family. People also call it seashore saltgrass.

The plant can grow up to two feet on high surrounding saltwater grassy marshes, forming dense mats. You might also come across them in areas where are usually flooded with storm tides and moon tides.

Its salt tolerance is quite impressive, comparable to Bermuda grass and its mixes. It usually bears yellow flowers from mid-August to mid-October.


One of the predominant swamp grasses in the Everglades is Sawgrass or Cladium jamaicense.

The name Sawgrass comes from its grayish-green flat leaves with saw-tooth edges. The length of those leaves can be up to 10 feet.

Its underground stems (rhizomes) are an extensive network, growing under 1-foot-deep water.

This course, perennial sedge, tends to appear in shallow, freshwater marshes and thrive in seasonally flooded areas (the best is the steeped location for 9 months of the year).

It also develops well in brackish water, where the salinity level is higher than in freshwater but less than in seawater.

Besides, dry land with any type of soil, including saline soil, can also be a suitable environment to raise the Sawgrass. The plant requires a little organic matter and light shade, making it quite easy to grow.

Salt Meadow Cordgrass

types of swamp grass
Salt Marsh Plants

This type of plant, another rhizomatous grass member of the Poaceae family, also has other names, such as Spartina patens or wire grass. Its height is around 4 feet, and its leaf blades can be from 4 to 20 inches long.

Growing well in the mid marsh areas, it’s one of the salt marsh plants that people use to stabilize and vegetate in freshwater and saltwater marshes.

Since there’s not enough oxygen on the lower salt swamps, it’s likely to grow on the higher tidal marshes. You can expect to see its flower spikes from July to October.

The Bottom Lines

Marsh grass types are important for the ecosystem thanks to the ability of marshes to prevent wetland erosion and facilitate the area.

They are diverse and slightly different from each other; thus, if you wish to grow them on your land, make sure you research well about your location to find out the most suitable one.

When you see no native marsh grasses in the wet meadow, it may indicate it’s not a perfect place. Plus, remember that shoreline development can greatly affect the plant.

Thank you for reading, and don’t forget to check out our next posts about gardening!

Samuel Mark

Hello I am Samuel. Samuel's Garden is a garden blog where I share my experiences in garden caring and tree growth. Hope you enjoy it!

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