Marshes are wetlands frequently or continually filled with water. Soft-stemmed vegetation grows here and is adapted to the saturated soil conditions. There are freshwater and saltwater marshes on the East Coast, West Coast and Southern Coast. Both types receive most of their water from surface water and the marsh grasses support many types of wildlife.
Smooth Cord Grass
Spartina alterniflora Loisei--commonly known as smooth cord grass--grows 1 1/2 to 3 inches long and has yellow flowers. Female and male flowers grow on separate plants with short and narrow bright green leaves.
Cattails are a common and easily identified marsh grass. They have long thin green leaves with a hot dog shaped brown flower spike growing on top. Tyhpa litifolia grows in areas of shallow water or areas with seasonal flooding and is prevalent on the edges of marshes.
Spike grass grows on high ground around a salt marsh, which is flooded during the full and new moon high tides and during storm tides. It contains salt glands on the leaves to excrete excess salt. Spike grass grows from 9 to 24 inches tall and from mid-August to September and it blooms with yellow flowers. The scientific name is Distichlis spicata and it is also known as seashore salt grass or marsh salt grass.
Salt Meadow Rush
Salt meadow rush grass is also know as mud rush and black grass because of its dark colouration. Juncus gerardii Loisel is a loosely tufted grass type herb that grows to heights of 2 1/2 to 7 1/2 feet tall with flat leaf blades. In the fall, dark to medium brown flowers appear on the black stems. When the blooms fall off, a brown egg-shaped fruit appears. This is a favourite food of many wildlife species.
This is the most common wetland fern in saltwater marshes. Thelypteris palustris is its scientific name and it supports wildlife in abundance because of the tasty leaves. The marsh fern appears much like the fern that is widely used in flower arrangements and is a dark green colour.
All types of marsh grass support wildlife in their area. The wildlife enters the marsh to drink from the water and eats all the different types of marsh grass. Marsh grass also has a distinct job in the environment of filtering water. The water runs through the grass, which filters out sediment so that it can drop to the bottom of the marsh. The native grasses also keep the marshes contained by drinking water on the edges of the bodies of water.
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