Spartina, commonly known as cordgrass or cord-grass,[4] is a genus of plants in the grass family, frequently found in coastal salt marshes.[5]

S. densiflora
Scientific classification

Type species
Spartina cynosuroides

The genus Spartina has been subsumed into the genus Sporobolus and demoted to the taxonomic status of section after a taxonomic revision in 2014[6], but it is still common to see Spartina used as the genus.

The word Spartina is derived from σπαρτίνη (spartínē), the Greek word for a cord made from Spanish broom (Spartium junceum).[7] They are native to the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean in western and southern Europe, northwest and southern Africa, the Americas and the southern Atlantic Ocean islands; one or two species also occur on the North American Pacific Ocean coast and in freshwater habitats inland in the Americas. The highest species diversity is on the east coasts of North and South America, particularly Florida.

They form large, often dense colonies, particularly on coastal salt marshes, and grow quickly. The species vary in size from 0.3–2 m tall. Many of the species will produce hybrids if they come into contact.


(Species on this list were revised to the genus Sporobolus, section Spartina, in 2014 [3][6])

  • Spartina alterniflora Loisel. smooth cordgrass – Atlantic coasts of North + South America, West Indies
  • Spartina anglica C.E.Hubb. common cordgrass – Great Britain; introduced scattered other places
  • Spartina arundinacea (Thouars) Carmich – Tristan da Cunha, Amsterdam Island in Indian Ocean
  • Spartina bakeri Merr. sand cordgrass – southeastern US
  • Spartina × caespitosa A.A.Eaton short cordgrass – eastern US + Canada (PEI to VA)
  • Spartina ciliata Brongn. – Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay
  • Spartina cynosuroides (L.) Roth big cordgrass – eastern US (TX to MA); Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Bahamas
  • Spartina densiflora Brongn. denseflower cordgrass – Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile
  • Spartina foliosa Trin. California cordgrass – California, Baja California, Baja California Sur
  • Spartina gracilis Trin. alkali cordgrass – western Canada, western + central US, Chihuahua, Jalisco, Michoacán
  • Spartina longispica Hauman & Parodi ex St.-Yves – Argentina, Uruguay
  • Spartina maritima (Curtis) Fernald small cordgrass – Great Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Morocco, Mauritania, Namibia, South Africa
  • Spartina patens (Aiton) Muhl saltmeadow cordgrass – east coast of North America from Labrador to Tamaulipas; West Indies
  • Spartina pectinata Bosc ex Link prairie cordgrass from Northwest Territories to Texas + Newfoundland
  • Spartina spartinae (Trin.) Merr. ex Hitchc. Gulf cordgrass – Atlantic coast of North America from Florida to Argentina, incl Caribbean + Gulf of Mexico
  • Spartina × townsendii H.Groves & J.Groves (S. alterniflora × S. maritima) Townsend's cordgrass – western Europe
  • Spartina versicolor Fabre – Mediterranean, Azores
Formerly included[2]

see Bouteloua Crypsis Dactylis Digitaria


Spartina has been planted by humans to reclaim estuarine areas for farming, to supply fodder for livestock, and to prevent erosion. Various members of the genus (especially Spartina alterniflora and its derivatives, Spartina anglica and Spartina × townsendii) have spread outside of their native boundaries and become invasive.

Big cordgrass (S. cynosuroides) is used in the construction of bull's eye targets for sports archery. A properly constructed Spartina target can stop an arrow safely without damage to the arrowhead as it lodges in the target.[11]


Spartina species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the Aaron's skipper (which feeds exclusively on smooth cordgrass) and the engrailed moth.

Some species of Spartina are considered ecosystem engineers that can strongly influence the physical and biological environment[12][13]. This is particularly important in areas where invasive Spartina species significantly alter their new environment, with impacts to native plants and animals[14].

As an invasive species

Three of the Spartina species have become invasive plants in some countries. In British Columbia, Spartina anglica, also known as English cordgrass, is an aggressive, aquatic alien that invades mud flats, salt marshes and beaches, out-competing native plants, spreading quickly over mud flats and leaving large Spartina meadows[15]. It is also invasive in China and California[14].

Spartina densiflora and Spartina patens have become invasive on the Iberian Peninsula and the west coast of the United States[14][16][17].

Spartina alterniflora and its hybrids with other Spartina species are invasive in numerous locations around the globe, including China, California, England, France, and Spain[14][18].

See also


  1. "Genus: Spartina Schreb". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2011-02-27. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  2. "Spartina". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  3. IPNI: The International Plant Names Index (2012). Published on the Internet [accessed 10 July 2018]
  4. "Spartina". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  5. Schreber, Johann Christian Daniel von. 1789. Genera Plantarum Eorumque Characteres Naturales Secundum Numerum, Figuram, Situm, & Proportionem Omnium Fructificationis Partium. (Ed. 8[a]). 43
  6. Peterson, PM , et al (2014) A molecular phylogeny and new subgeneric classification of Sporobolus (Poaceae: Chloridoideae: Sporobolinae), Taxon 63: 1212-1243.
  7. Barkworth, Mary E. "17.45 SPARTINA Schreb". Intermountain Herbarium. Utah State University. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
  8. The Plant List search for Spartina
  9. "GRIN Species Records of Spartina". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2011-02-25.
  10. "Spartina". County-level distribution maps from the North American Plant Atlas (NAPA). Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2013.
  11. "Bull's-eye Builder". Popular Mechanics. June 1952. pp. 126–127.
  12. Li, B. et al (2009) Spartina alterniflora invasions in the Yangtze River estuary, China: An overview of current status and ecosystem effects, Ecol. Eng. 35: 511-520.
  13. Balke, T. et al (2012) Conditional outcome of ecosystem engineering: A case study on tussocks of the salt marsh pioneer Spartina anglica, Geomorphology 153-154: 232-238.
  14. Strong, D.R., & Ayres, D.R. (2013) Ecological and Evolutionary Misadventures of Spartina, Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 44:389-410.
  15. Spartina, Aliens Among Us.
  16. D. G. SanLeón, J. Izco & J. M. Sánchez (1999). Joseph Caffrey; Philip R. F. Barrett; Maria Teresa Ferreira; Ilidio S. Moreira; Kevin J. Murphy; Philip Max Wade, eds. "Biology, Ecology and Management of Aquatic Plants". Hydrobiologia. Developments in Hydrobiology, Vol. 147. 415: 213–222. doi:10.1023/A:1003835201167. ISBN 978-90-481-5404-3.
  17. Oregon Department of Agriculture, Noxious Weeds
  18. Ainouche, M.L., et al (2009) Hybridization, polyploidy and invasion: lessons from Spartina (Poaceae), Biol. Invasions 11: 1159-1173.

Data related to Spartina at Wikispecies

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