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California Cord Grass Back to Plant Page
Spartina foliosa

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About California Cord Grass (Spartina foliosa) Spartina foliosa is a species of grass known by the common name California cordgrass. It is native to the salt marshes and mudflats of coastal California and Baja California, especially San Francisco Bay. It is a perennial grass growing from short rhizomes. It produces single stems or clumps of thick, fleshy stems which grow up to 1. 5 meters tall. They are green or purple-tinged. The long, narrow leaves are flat or rolled inward. The inflorescence is a narrow, dense, spike-like stick of branches appressed together, the unit reaching up to 25 centimeters long. The lower spikelets are sometimes enclosed in the basal sheaths of upper leaves. This native plant is seriously threatened by the invasion of its non-native relative smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora). The latter was introduced to San Francisco Bay in the 1970s and it quickly began to hybridize with S. foliosa, leading to the near-extirpation of the once-common native plant. The two species reproduce at the same time of year, and the invader sheds large amounts of pollen that fertilize the flowers of the native, so that the majority of the native plant's offspring are hybrids. There are almost no pure individuals of S. foliosa left, as most plants in the area are hybrids: this is an example of genetic pollution. Hybrids of the two species have spread rapidly because they are much more genetically fit than either parent, an example of hybrid vigor. Pure S. foliosa will probably become extirpated from San Francisco Bay, and only its hybrids will remain.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
4.9 ft (1.5 m)

Flower Color
Green, Purple

Native Status

Natural Setting
Elevation ?
-7' - 395'

Annual Precip. ?
9.4" - 60.2"

Summer Precip. ?
0.17" - 1.88"

Coldest Month ?
44.9° F - 56.4° F

Hottest Month ?
57.4° F - 73.0° F

Humidity ?
0.29 vpd - 18.69 vpd

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

Nursery Availability
Never or Almost Never Available

Other Names
Common Names
California Cordgrass

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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