If you’ve ever been to the sandy beaches of the UK’s coastline, the chances are you will have seen marram grass! It is also known as European beachgrass. It is the tussocky, spiky, coarse type of grass that you definitely would not choose to sit on to enjoy your picnic! But it is these characteristics that have enabled craftspeople throughout centuries to fashion baskets and rope from its leaves and it has also been used for thatching roofs and making paper.
Marram thrives in shifting sand. It has long root systems and survives when the wind naturally blows lots of sand on top of it, simply growing up through the new deposits. Its root systems help to stabilise the sand enough to create embryo dune and semi-fixed dune habitats, which are vitally important habitats for many species of insect and plant which need sandy soils.
Did you know?
You may have guessed that Marram grass is tolerant of salty conditions, but it is also well adapted to wide daily temperature fluctuations and can even grow in places where the water table is far below ground. For instance, in Braunton Burrows, Devon, the water table is 26 metres below ground yet Marram grass continues to thrive!
Where to find me
Marram grass is native to the UK’s coastal regions, including the Orkney, Shetland and Hebridean Islands, and has adapted to grow on open, free draining, low-nutrient mobile and semi-fixed sand dunes. As a result, you will see Marram grass at all of the Dynamic Dunescapes sites!
We monitor and maintain the vegetation at our sites, including marram grass to ensure it can help retain the embryo and semi-fixed sand dunes and provide cover and nesting opportunities for other species which need these bare sand habitats.
How to identify me
Dense tussocks of grey-green spiky leaves which sheath the base, marram grass grows to is approximately one metre tall and is a perennial so is visible at all times of the year. Its bisexual flowers appear as a golden rod in July/August and produce windblown seed in August/September.