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Salt grass

Salt grass

Not on Exhibit

Animal Facts

  • Scientific Name

    Distichlis spicata

  • Animal Type

    Plants & Algae

  • Diet

    photosynthesis (converts energy to sunlight and nutrients)

  • Size

    to 12 inches (30.5 cm)

  • Relatives

    other grasses; Order: Cyperales; Family: Poaceae

  • Habitat

    Beaches & Dunes

  • Range

    common throughout western United States and Canada

Natural History

It's a rare plant that can live in salty soil without wilting. Salt grass takes the salt in, then sweats it out, leaving crystals on its blades for the rain to wash away. Even so, salt grass can't grow as close to the water's edge as other plants like pickleweed.


Salt grass is commonly used in wetland restoration. For many decades, people considered wetlands "wastelands," and thousands of acres were filled in, diked off or dredged out for human uses. Now we know our remaining wetlands are a valuable and vulnerable resource for people and wildlife. You can help preserve native wetlands by getting involved in restoration projects in your area.

Cool Facts

Salt grass and other plants that live in dunes need tough roots to anchor them in the shifting sands. And because dunes are so dry, dune plants often have waxy skins or furry leaves to hold in moisture—a lot like desert plants.

Salt grass is an important food source for geese and other birds. When decomposed, it's also a steady source of nutrition for clams, fishes and crabs.

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