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Living Shorelines: Plants of the High Salt Marsh

Salt bushes and grasses are the dominant plants in the high salt marsh, flooded only during extreme high tides and storm events. Salt bushes indicate the upland limit of tidal marshes. See the field guide to salt and brackish marsh plants for detailed line drawings and habit of the plants.

Detailed View

Salt Meadow Plants -
found in areas of periodic inundation

Habit of Plant
Spartina patens flower

Saltmeadow hay - Spartina patens. Leaves are in-rolled not 2-ranked with densely overlapping spikelets borne only one one side of axis. It grows from 1-3 ft. and blooms from July to September.

Spartina patens community
Distichlis spicata spike

Salt grass - Distichlis spicata. Has a terminal spike inflorescence and 2-ranked leaves. It grows 8-16 inches and blooms from July to September.

Distichlis spicata community

Sea lavender - Limonium spp. Has basal leaves and lavender flowers that bloom from July to October. Plant grows up to 3 ft.

Limonium carolinium
Saltmarsh aster

Salt marsh aster - Aster tenuifolius. Has alternate, flexuous linear leaves and pale purple, blue or white daisey-like flowers that bloom from July to September. Plant grows 1-4 ft.

salt marsh aster
Mike Gilbert

Marsh orach or Orach spearscale - Atriplex patula. Has fleshy, arrow-shaped, alternate leaves and grows up to 4 ft. Blooms from July to September.

Detailed View

Salt Panne Plants - found in areas infrequently inundated and concentrated salts

Habit of Plant
Baccharis flowers

Grounsel bush - Baccharis halimifolia - has alternate fleshy lobed leaves and dense clusters of conspicuous white flowers in fall. Grows up to 8 ft and blooms from September to October.

Baccharis halimifolia
Panicum virgatum flower

Switch grass - Panicum virgatum. Has straw-colored paniculate inflorescence. It grows up to 3 ft. and blooms from July to September.

Panicum virgatum
solidago sempervirens
W.J. Hayden

Seaside goldenrod - Solidago sempervirens. Has dense clusters of yellow flowers and alternate lance-shaped leaves. It grows from 4-5 ft. and blooms from August to October.

Iva frutescens leaf

Marsh elder - Iva frutescens - has opposite fleshy, lance-shaped toothed leaves, with small greenish white flowers that are not prominent. It grows 2-6 ft. and blooms in August to October.

Iva frutescens
Borrichia flower

Sea oxeye - Borrichia frutescens. Grows up to 3 ft. with opposite fleshy leaves, yellow daisy-like flowers that bloom from July to September.

Borrichia frutescens

Glasswort - Salicornia spp. Has succulent round stems with scale-like leaves. Grows 4-20 inches and blooms from July to November.

Salicornia habit
Hibiscus flower

Marsh hibiscus or rose mallow - Hibiscus moscheutos. Has large showy white hibiscus flowers and alternate leaves. Grows up to 12 ft. and blooms July to September.


Marsh mallow - Kosteletzkya virginica. Has showy pink hibiscus-like flowers with alternate leaves that have dense hairs. It grows 2-3 feet and blooms from July to August.

Kosteletzkya community
Phragmites inflorescence

Phragmites - Phragmites australis. Has 2 ranked wide, bluish-green leaves with a large inflorescence plume. It grows 6-14 feet and blooms in September to October.

Phragmites australis community