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For the Beach Botanist: Marram Grass

Posted by alainaflute on August 22, 2012

Marram Grass, Holkham Nature Reserve, England                                                                                  (Evelyn Simak/Geograph Project/Wikimedia Commons)

Sand is associated with time slipping away, things that can’t be grasped, and the impermanence of all things…not exactly prime real estate. I’ll move in on Friday!

It’s amazing how many forms of life can call the beach home. With its ever changing tide and features, animals still come and go, and plants cling to the shore, popping out of rocks and shooting up from the sandy dunes. I don’t always stop to think about how cool it is when grass or trees pop up on the beach, but it really is amazing! Here is one such plant I discovered whilst browsing a “Beach” subject search on World Book Advanced: 

Marram grass has long, narrow, pale-green leaves. It grows in dense clumps on sandy beaches and coastal sand dunes. The clumps can be over 3 feet (1 meter) high.

Marram grass is a xerophyte—that is, a plant adapted to life in dry surroundings. Its roots can grow over 20 feet (6 meters) long to reach water deep beneath the surface. It can also curl its leaves to reduce the amount of water evaporating from them.

Marram grass grows from a network of branching underground stems called rhizomes. The rhizomes and long roots anchor the grass to the sand and stabilize sand dunes. The grass acts as a windbreak and windblown sand collects around it. This makes the sand dunes grow bigger and extends the land seaward.

Marram grass is native to Europe and is sometimes called European beach grass. It has been planted in America and Australia to stabilize sand dunes. Its leaves are sometimes used for making baskets, brooms, mats, and thatch.

Marram grass belongs to the grass family, Gramineae (Poaceae). It is Ammophila arenaria.”

“Marram grass.” World Book Advanced. World Book, 2012. Web.  1 Aug. 2012.

Marram Grass at Laggan Bay, Scotland. Marram grass is important in holding the dunes in place. (Mary and Angus Hogg/Geograph Project/Wikimedia Commons)

This tenacious and helpful dune grass overlooks some of the most stunning views the world has to offer. I can almost hear it blowing in the cool ocean breezes, inviting me to flip off my shoes to stroll past the dunes and down to the beach.

There’s even a works cited up there! Don’t you feel like you’re back in school? Well, shake off that feeling, rub in some sunscreen, and go ponder the meaning of existence (or not) on your beach towel.

“Our best built certainties are but sand-houses

and subject to damage from any wind of doubt that blows.” – Mark Twain.

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One Response to “For the Beach Botanist: Marram Grass”

  1. Jody said

    I just love the look of tall dune grass. I’ll bet it sounds wonderful, too.

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