English Cordgrass is also known as Common Cordgrass.
General: English Cordgrass is a perennial grass from the Poaeceae family.
Flowers: Flowers are arranged in numerous, upright clusters, which consist of closely overlapping spikelets. The flowers are inconspicuous, colourless, and resemble wheat. They only grow on one side of the stem.
Stems: English Cordgrass stems are hollow and appear stout and reddish. They grow up to 1 m tall and approximately 5 mm wide at the base.
Leaves: Greyish-green blades grow at a distinctive 45 to 90-degree angle to the stems, in an alternate arrangement. The leaves are 5 – 40 cm long. Fine, straight hairs grow at the junction of the leaf and leafstalk.
Seeds: Though seed production is variable, English Cordgrass can produce seedheads that are 12 – 40 cm long and end in a bristle up to 5 cm long.
Roots: English Cordgrass has a dense root system.
Overall, English Cordgrass can be distinguished by its leaf blades that grow at a 45 to 90-degree angle and fine hairs that grow at the juncture of the leaf and the leafstalk.
- Saltmeadow Cordgrass (Spartina patens)
- Smooth Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora)
- Dense-Flowered Cordgrass (Spartina densiflora)
English Cordgrass can be extremely challenging to distinguish from other grass species. Accordingly, we recommend the use of a detailed key for positive identification (please refer to the references section for more links).
- American Dunegrass (Leymus mollis, L. arenarius) has thick rhizomes (fleshy roots) and its leaves are slightly hairy on top. Its flowers are also a greenish yellow tone, rather than a reddish one for English Cordgrass
Habitat and Origin
English Cordgrass is a hybrid species of Small Cordgrass (Spartina maritima) and Smooth Cordgrass (S. alterniflora). It originated in England and was cultivated to stabilize banks.
English Cordgrass is very adaptable to a variety of growing conditions, from salt marshes to mud flats in the intertidal zone. This species can tolerate various environmental conditions, such as temporary inundation. It can grow in a variety of soils including clays, fine silts, organic muds, sands and shingle.
Propagation & Vectors of Spread
English Cordgrass spreads by reproductive roots, rhizomes, and seeds.
English Cordgrass root fragments and seeds spread primarily by tidal currents, but can also be dispersed by birds, ballast water, dredging, aquaculture and intentional planting for erosion control.
Ecological, Economic, & Health Impacts
- Significantly decreases habitat and nursery grounds for birds and fish.
- Alters hydrology of an area and disrupts tidal drainage patterns.
- Causes sediment accumulation.
- Impacts coastal-based industries, such as tourism.
What Can I Do?
English Cordgrass is not yet found in communities of the Sea to Sky, so PREVENTION is key:
Learn to identify English Cordgrass: use the images presented in this profile page to learn how to identify English Cordgrass
What to do if you spot it: You can report any English Cordgrass sighting by clicking here.
Due to its limited distribution in BC, English Cordgrass is part of the ‘Early Detection & Rapid Response’ program in BC. See this page for more information.
- Regularly monitor properties for weed infestations.
- Minimize soil disturbances and promptly revegetate disturbed areas to prevent the growth of English Cordgrass.
- Be PlantWise and choose alternative, non-invasive species.
- Ensure plants (particularly flowering heads or root fragments) are bagged or covered to prevent spread during transport to designated disposal sites (e.g., landfill).
- Clean, drain and dry boats and equipment before leaving any water body (to avoid spreading seeds and plant parts). Take extra caution when transporting your boat or other equipment in and out of the province.
- Maintain terrestrial, riparian and aquatic environments in a healthy condition to ensure productive natural plant communities.
- Plant English Cordgrass in a garden, no matter how well-contained its enclosure may seem.
- Compost any flowering heads or root fragments. Instead, dispose of English Cordgrass in the general/household waste stream at the landfill as the seeds will be able to persist the composting process.
- Move soil, gravel, or fill that has been contaminated with English Cordgrass.
- Mechanical control of English Cordgrass is extremely labour-intensive. Early season seedlings can be hand-pulled or excavated.
- Mowing can help contain growth, limit seed set, and eventually kill the plants.
- For long-term results, mowing must be repeated several times each season for up to four years.
- Herbicide treatment is not possible at most sites, due to the plant’s habitat.
- In any case, herbicide use is challenging and complex, and should not be attempted without seeking more information from BC Ministry of Forests.
There are currently no biocontrol agents available for this species in BC.
Dykes can confine the lateral spread of rhizomes. Alternatively, they can be used to inundate infestations until plants die.
- BC Spartina Working Group. Spartina. https://www.cmnbc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2009Spartina20ID20Cards_2.pdf
- Biodiversity of the Central Coast, Seaside arrowgrass, https://www.centralcoastbiodiversity.org/seaside-arrowgrass-bull-triglochin-maritima.html
- Biodiversity of the Central Coast, Dunegrass, https://www.centralcoastbiodiversity.org/dune-grass-bull-elymus-mollis.html
- Biodiversity of the Central Coast, Seaside plantain, https://www.centralcoastbiodiversity.org/seaside-plantain-bull-plantago-maritima.html
- Coastal Invasive Species Council, Spartina, https://www.coastalisc.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Spartina_bulletin1_May_11.pdf
- Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia, Distichlis spicata, http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Distichlis%20spicata
- Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia, Leymus mollis, http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Leymus+mollis
- Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia, Plantago maritima, http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Plantago%20maritima
- Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia, Spartina anglica, http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Spartina%20anglica
- Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia, Spartina patens, https://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Spartina%20patens
- European Network on Invasive Alien Species, Spartina anglica, https://www.nobanis.org/globalassets/speciesinfo/s/spartina-anglica/spartina_anglica.pdf
- Go Botany Native Plant Trust, Spartina, https://gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org/dkey/spartina/
- Government of BC, Cordgrasses (Spartina anglica, S. densiflora, S. patens) Frequently Asked Questions, https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/plants-animals-and-ecosystems/invasive-species/pest-management/spartina_pup_2019_22_faq.pdf
- Government of Oregon, Common Cordgrass, https://www.oregon.gov/oda/shared/Documents/Publications/Weeds/CordgrassCommonProfile.pdf
- Invasive Plant Atlas, Common Cordgrass, https://www.invasiveplantatlas.org/subject.html?sub=6472
- Oregon Department of Agriculture, Key to West Coast Spartina Species Based on Vegetative Characteristics, https://www.cmnbc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/spartina_vegkey_2.pdf
- San Francisco Estuary Invasive Spartina Project, Spartina anglica, https://spartina.org/species/spartina-anglica_v2.pdf