What Is Ammophila Breviligula?

Ammophilia is a genus of flowering plants native to North America. They are known as “Beach Grasses” because they grow along beaches. The species ammophila breviligulata is the only one found in Florida and it grows along the Atlantic coast from Cape Hatteras northward to Nova Scotia and southward to southern Mexico. It is called “beach grass” because it forms dense mats of fine white flowers in the sand.

In the wild, these plants grow in patches, but they do not form large colonies like most other beach grasses do. Instead, each patch contains several individuals growing side by side.

These individual plants have no roots or stems; instead they are supported by tiny leaves that grow out from their tips.

These little green plants are so small that you might mistake them for weeds if you did not know better! Each one is about the size and shape of a grain of sand.

The leaves at the base of the plant are green and spread out like hands reaching up to the sky. Their roots and stems are so small that you cannot see them, but if you look closely you can see where they are attached to the tip of the plant.

The plants grow in clumps with their leaves all piled on top of each other. Each one seems to be standing on tiptoe to reach the sun.

Their seeds are so small that they look like dust in the wind.

The leaves of these tiny plants are so small that they trap bits of air to make them float. The wind can catch these bubbles and carry the plants for miles, so sometimes you might find some washed up on the beach.

These plants are also eaten by animals such as rabbits and deer, which distribute their seeds when they poop!

A. breviligulata is a hardy species that can survive in poor quality soil and shallow water.

It grows best in full sun, but can manage in partially shaded conditions. It can grow in sand, loam, or clay.

These plants are adapted to hot and humid conditions. They do not tolerate cold weather and will die if exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for more than a few hours.

They can, however, tolerate occasional brief freezes if the soil is not frozen.

Beach grass grows slowly and does not reproduce until it is at least a year old. It can live for more than 20 years.

These plants reproduce both by seeds and vegetatively. They spread by sprouting new stems and leaves from their roots.

Each plant can produce between 7 and 15 new plants in a year.

The seeds are very small and can be carried for long distances by wind or water. They germinate quickly when they find a suitable place.

Many animals eat the seeds, including ducks, sea birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer, and cattle.

The dried stems are used for thatching roofs in some countries.

The dried leaves were used by American Indians to make baskets and clothing.

Beach grass can be eaten by humans, but it is not nutritious enough to be a major food source.

Beach grass cannot tolerate polluted water, so it is a good measure of water quality. It is also sensitive to changes in salinity and can be used as an indicator of wetland conditions.

Ammophila breviligulata is an endangered species in Florida.

A. breviligulata is an endangered species in Florida.

It is illegal to uproot or otherwise damage these plants and several other native grasses anywhere in the state. The entire area, not just the patch of clumps where the plants are growing, is protected by law.

Sources & references used in this article:

Mycorrhizae and succession in plantings of beachgrass in sand dunes by RE Koske, JN Gemma – American Journal of Botany, 1997 – Wiley Online Library

Preemergent herbicide safety in container-grown ornamental grasses by JC Neal, AF Senesac – HortScience, 1991 – journals.ashs.org

Presence of Amoebae in the Rhizosphere of a Beach Grass1 by JJ NAPOLITANO – The Journal of protozoology, 1983 – Wiley Online Library

Subtle differences in two non‐native congeneric beach grasses significantly affect their colonization, spread, and impact by SD Hacker, P Zarnetske, E Seabloom, P Ruggiero… – Oikos, 2012 – Wiley Online Library

Arbuscular mycorrhizae in sand dune plants of the North Atlantic coast of the US: field and greenhouse inoculation and presence of mycorrhizae in planting stock by JN Gemma, RE Koske – Journal of Environmental Management, 1997 – Elsevier

Green infrastructure life cycle assessment: A bio-infiltration case study by KM Flynn, RG Traver – Ecological engineering, 2013 – Elsevier

Effects of human trampling on sand-beach grass communities of the middle Yellow Sea. by HX Yang, JT Zhang – Acta Prataculturae Sinica, 2010 – cabdirect.org

May 1963 by EH Wheeler, B Grant, R Southwick, JH Baker… – Turf …, 1963 – scholarworks.umass.edu

A methodological problem in genecology. Seeds versus clones as source material for uniform gardens by L Hume, PB Cavers – Canadian Journal of Botany, 1981 – NRC Research Press

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