American Beach Grass
This plant is not part of an Aquarium exhibit, but is rather a wild species which lives in on the sandy shores of Oregon. It is included here as part of the Aquarium's broad mission to educate about the entirety of the Oregon coastline.
American Beach Grass is the predominate plant species on many coastal dune areas around the country. It is native to the mid-Atlantic coastal region and the Great Lakes, although is an introduced species in Oregon.
This is a perennial plant which can grow up to ten feet (3 m) annually with a maximum height of three feet (.91 m). The dark green leaves are deeply furrowed above but smooth on the bottom. The grass grows better in cooler environments and the leaves may curl up or fold inward when exposed to high temperatures, excessive sunshine or high winds.
American Beach Grass is common in coastal dune areas of the Atlantic seaboard, Great Lakes and throughout California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
Although still common in many areas, this species has been widely supplanted by European Beach Grass (Ammophila arenaria) which grows faster and can better tolerate a variety of environmental factors. Both plants were purposely introduced to Oregon in the early to mid-twentieth century as a means of controlling erosion. The introduction of these grasses has dramatically changed the structure of Oregon beaches during the last century. The plants have been very successful at curbing erosion, resulting in the creation of large foredunes on many beaches which result in wetlands behind them.
The grasses have also destroyed forced out native beach plants and destroyed nesting habitat for many animals, most notably the Western Snowy Plover. The plant is listed as Endangered or Threatened in some parts of the United States, though not currently in Oregon where it is an invasive species.