General: Sea oats is a native, warm-season,
semi-tropical, rhizomatous perennial, C4 grass dominating many beach and dune environments. Culms are stout, erect 1-2 meters tall, nodes and internodes glabrous. Leaves are both basal and cauline with blades elongate to 60 cm long and 1.2 cm wide, both surfaces glabrous. The inflorescence is a large open panicle 8-15 cm long with flat yellowish spikelets, 10-20 flowered. Seed heads become a yellow-brown, straw color in late summer and into the fall.
Distribution: Sea oats occurs along the U.S. coast and barrier islands from Virginia through Florida, the Gulf coast, and south to Mexico. However, it is uncommon in Louisiana west of the Mississippi River delta over to Texas.
Habitat: Sea oats is typically found on loose sands of upper beaches, and the more exposed and accreting areas of dunes such as foredunes and dune crests. It is one of the few species that are able to establish and grow in this dynamic beach zone. Sea oats thrives and is actually stimulated where sand is actively accumulating. It is highly tolerant of xeric conditions, but sea oats does not tolerate water logging of roots, which will stress or kill plants within a few days. There are also beneficial microorganisms associated with the roots of sea oats. Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are reported to increase the surface area of roots facilitating nutrient absorption and improving nutrition of sea oats communities.
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