Types of Grasses in Estuaries

Estuaries are bodies of water near coasts in which freshwater rivers and streams flow into and mix with the seawater of the ocean. Grasses that grow in estuaries can slow tidal waters and cause an increase in sedimentary deposits, which creates an environment for an influx of animal and plant life.

Smooth Cord Grass

Smooth cord grass is one of the first types of grass to begin growing in a newly developing estuary. It is a medium/large, erect, spikey green grass found in tidal flats, salt marshes and beaches. The smooth blades measure 2 feet long with the entire plant growing to a height of 3 to 5 feet, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension.

Salt Hay Grass

Salt hay grass (Spartina patens), also referred to as saltmeadow hay, marsh grass and saltmeadow cordgrass, is another type of grass found in estuaries. It has thin, wire-like, wispy, rolled blades that clump and display a green hue during the spring and summer seasons, and turn brown during autumn and winter. Salt hay grass reaches a height of 1 to 2 feet. It displays purple flowers from June to October. Salt hay grass is found in high marsh zones and is often covered by high tide. This grass, along with smooth cord grass, provides a nutrient-dense living environment for animal life including crustaceans, birds, ducks and sparrows, according to the University of Rhode Island Environmental Data Center.


Saltgrass (Distichlis spicata (L.) Greene) is a type of estuary grass also known as inland saltgrass and alkali saltgrass. This low-growing grass displays rigid stems with hairy, pointed leaves and a green hue until the autumn season. The grass grows to a height of 4 to 16 inches. Saltgrass is often used by small mammals and birds as food or nest material. It also helps to reduce the amount of salt water that flows into fresh water areas, causing the water to become saline. Saltgrass can be found in ponds, reservoirs, rivers, valleys and basins, according to the Utah State University Extension.

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About this Author

Tarah Damask's writing career, beginning in 2003, includes experience as a fashion writer/editor for Neiman Marcus, short fiction publications in "North Texas Review," a self-published novel, band biographies, charter school curriculum, and articles for eHow. She has a love for words and is an avid observer. Damask holds a Master of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of North Texas.