Alkali Cordgrass

 Alkali cordgrass, courtesy of Roger Banner

 Photo Courtesy of Dr. Roger Banner, USU Extension

Common Name(s):

Alkali Cordgrass

Scientific Name:

Spartina gracilis Trin.

Scientific Name Synonyms:

None known

Symbol:

SPGR

Description:

Life Span: Perennial
Origin: Native

Season: Warm

Growth Characteristics:  Alkali cordgrass is a  strongly rhizomatous grass which is robust, with erect culms ½-3’ tall.   Reproduction is by seed and by rhizomes. It starts growth in late-spring and begins flowering in July. 

Seedhead: Seedheads are panicles 2-10” long with 2-10 spikelike branches ?-2?” long with spikelets bearing to the base and appressed to the main axis. Spikelets are essentially flat and strongly overlapping, 10-30 per branch and 1-flowered. 

Leaves:Leaf blades are rather narrow (<¼” wide), long (≤12”), flat or with edges rolled upward and in on drying, rather rough and coarse, and gradually tapered to more or less finely pointed tips. The leaf sheaths are smooth and ligules are present and composed of rings of short hairs. 

Ecological Adaptations:

Alkali cordgrass is found at elevations from 4,000-6,500’ in meadows and in hanging gardens in most counties throughout Utah. It is found where annual precipitation is from 12-30” but is not particularly sensitive to precipitation zones since it grows along watercourses, in wetlands or in wet meadows. It withstands periodic flooding and soil deposition.

Soils: Fine to Medium textured, moist to wet, often saline soils.

Associated Species:  Associated species in Utah include Nebraska sedge, redtop, hardstem bulrush, common reed, tall wheatgrass, foxtail barley, inland saltgrass, cattail and reed canarygrass, among others.

Uses and Management:

Alkali cordgrass is an excellent grass for erosion control along rivers and streams. Its foliage is coarse but readily grazed by cattle and horses. It was a major constituent to native meadow hay historically but does not withstand close harvest and has been replaced with tall wheatgrass in many meadow areas. It regrows slowly. Alkali cordgrass is fire tolerant and dense stands may have burned periodically historically.