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Distichlis spicata

About Saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) Distichlis spicata is a species in the Poaceae (Grass) family. This grass is native to the Americas, where it is widespread. It can be found on other continents as well, where it is naturalized, and in California it is found in virtually every county. D. spicata is a hardy perennial with rhizomes and sometimes stolons. it can form dense, monotypic stands. It is an erect grass which occasionally approaches half a meter in height but is generally shorter. It spreads to occupy suitable areas. The solid, stiff stems have narrow leaves up to 10 centimeters in length, which may be crusted with salt in saline environments, excreting salts from its tissues via salt glands. This species is dioecious, meaning the male flowers and female flowers grow on separate individuals. The pistillate flower cluster may be up to 8 centimeters long, with green or purple-tinted spikelets. The staminate flowers look quite similar, thinner but larger overall and denser. The flower parts of both sexes may be bright pinkish-purple. This plant grows easily in salty and alkaline soils. It is not often used in residential gardens but is valuable in restoration projects.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
1.1 - 1.6 ft (0.34 - 0.49 m)


Growth Rate
Moderate, Slow

Flower Color

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Salt marshes, moist, alkaline places


Elevation ?
-229' - 8881'

Annual Precip. ?
2.2" - 76.3"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 2.47"

Coldest Month ?
20.3° F - 61.4° F

Hottest Month ?
52.6° F - 90.7° F

Humidity ?
0.01 vpd - 49.06 vpd

Soil Description
Prefers sand or sandstone

Soil PH
5.0 - 8.5

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Saline Soil, Tolerates Sodic Soil

Fast, Medium, Slow, Standing

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 0° F

Sunset Zones ?
3, 4*, 5*, 6*, 7*, 8*, 9*, 10, 11, 12*, 13*, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Companion Plants
Use with other wetland and/or Salt tolerant species such as Seaheath (Frankenia salina), Goldenbush (Isocoma menziesii), Bog Rush (Juncus effusus), Sealavender (Limonium californicum), Marsh Fleabane (Pluchea odorata), Pickleweed (Salicornia sp.), and Cordgrass (Spartina foliosa)

Wildlife Attracted
Several species of Skipper butterflies use this species as host plant. A number of birds and small mammals also utilize this plant.

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Moderate - High
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Seldom Used

Max. Summer Water ?
Keep moist
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Common uses
Groundcovers, Butterfly Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Desert Saltgrass, Inland Saltgrass, Marsh Spikegrass, Seashore Saltgrass

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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