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Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata - (Juncus roemerianus) Salt Marsh
Translated Name: Saltmeadow Cordgrass - Saltgrass - (Black Needlerush) Salt Marsh
Common Name: Mid- & Southern Atlantic High Salt Marsh
Unique Identifier: CEGL004197
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This association is an irregularly tidally flooded high salt marsh of the mid- and southern Atlantic Coast from Delaware south to Florida. It is dominated by Spartina patens, which forms meadows with a distinct "cowlicked" appearance. These meadows occur at slightly higher elevations than adjacent, regularly flooded low salt marsh occupying the zone extending from mean high tide landward approximately to the limit of high spring tides. The substrate is peat of variable depths overlying sand. Distichlis spicata can be codominant. Additional associated species that generally occur in low abundance and sporadically among examples can include Limonium carolinianum, Schoenoplectus americanus, Agalinis maritima, Salicornia virginica, Juncus roemerianus, Sabatia stellaris, Borrichia frutescens, Lythrum lineare, Solidago sempervirens, Pluchea odorata (= Pluchea purpurascens), Hibiscus moscheutos ssp. moscheutos (= Hibiscus palustris), or Atriplex prostrata (= Atriplex patula var. hastata). Shrub seedlings of Baccharis halimifolia, Iva frutescens, and/or Morella cerifera (= Myrica cerifera) may occur sporadically. Diagnostic species are Spartina patens, Distichlis spicata, Borrichia frutescens, Kosteletzkya virginica, and Pluchea odorata. One unusual Virginia occurrence is dominated by Plantago maritima var. juncoides.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: Although Juncus roemerianus may not be present or have minor cover in some stands, it is a differential species and was chosen as a nominal of this association to distinguish it from Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata - (Juncus gerardii) Salt Marsh (CEGL006006), which occurs to the north. Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata - (Juncus roemerianus) Salt Marsh (CEGL004197) is differentiated by the absence or relative infrequent occurrence of Juncus gerardii, Plantago maritima, and Triglochin maritima (in pannes), and by the importance of species of southern distribution, such as Borrichia frutescens, Kosteletzkya virginica, Fimbristylis castanea, and Lythrum lineare. If discrete patches of Juncus roemerianus occur in substantial size (several acres), the community is considered to be Juncus roemerianus Salt Marsh (CEGL004186). Currently, some unusually diverse variants exist in Virginia that may warrant recognition as a separate association.

Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 2 - Shrub & Herb Vegetation
Subclass 2.C - Shrub & Herb Wetland
Formation 2.C.5 - Salt Marsh
Division 2.C.5.Nb - North American Atlantic & Gulf Coastal Salt Marsh
Macrogroup North American Atlantic & Gulf Coastal Salt Marsh
Group Atlantic & Gulf Coastal High Salt Marsh
Alliance Eastern Saltmeadow Cordgrass High Salt Marsh

This is the revised vegetation hierarchy. For more information see Classification Sources and usnvc.org.

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL004186 Juncus roemerianus Salt Marsh
CEGL006006 Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata - (Juncus gerardii) Salt Marsh
CEGL006586 Spartina alterniflora - Distichlis spicata Tidal Salt Marsh



Related Concepts from Other Classifications

Related Subnational Community Units
These data are subject to substantial ongoing revision and may be out of date for some states.
In the U.S., contact the state Heritage Program for the most complete and up-to-date information at: http://www.natureserve.org/natureserve-network.
Information from programs in other jurisdictions will be posted when they are made available.
Subnation Concept Name Relationship to Standard Confidence Reference
Delaware Spartina High Salt Marsh Broader Certain Coxe 2009
Maryland Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata - Juncus roemerianus Herbaceous Vegetation Equivalent Certain Harrison 2011
North Carolina Brackish Marsh (Salt Meadow Cordgrass Subtype) Equivalent Certain Schafale 2012
South Carolina Brackish marsh (allard) Intersects   Nelson 1986
South Carolina Salt marsh (allard) Intersects   Nelson 1986


Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Aster tenuifolius - Distichlis spicata - Fimbristylis castanea - Borrichia frutescens - Spartina patens association
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Adams, D. A. 1963. Factors influencing vascular plant zonation in North Carolina salt marshes. Ecology 44:445-456.
Related Concept Name: Spartina - Distichlis - Juncus associes
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Penfound, W. T. 1952. Southern swamps and marshes. Botanical Review 7:413-446.
Related Concept Name: Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata - (Juncus roemerianus) Herbaceous Vegetation
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P., K. Taverna, and P. P. Coulling. 2007b. Vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks, eastern region. Regional (VA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2007. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.
Related Concept Name: Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata - Juncus roemerianus Herbaceous Vegetation
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Harrison, J. W., compiler. 2004. Classification of vegetation communities of Maryland: First iteration. A subset of the International Classification of Ecological Communities: Terrestrial Vegetation of the United States, NatureServe. Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis. 243 pp.
Related Concept Name: Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata - Sarcocornia perennis - Limonium carolinianum Herbaceous Vegetation
Relationship: F - Finer
Reference: Coulling, P. P. 2002. A preliminary classification of tidal marsh, shrub swamp, and hardwood swamp vegetation and assorted non-tidal, chiefly non-maritime, herbaceous wetland communities of the Virginia Coastal Plain. October 2002. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. Natural Heritage Technical Report 02-18. 30 pp.
Related Concept Name: Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata Herbaceous Vegetation
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Clancy, K. 1996. Natural communities of Delaware. Unpublished review draft. Delaware Natural Heritage Program, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Delaware Division of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Smyrna, DE. 52 pp.
Relationship: F - Finer
Reference: Coulling, P. P. 2002. A preliminary classification of tidal marsh, shrub swamp, and hardwood swamp vegetation and assorted non-tidal, chiefly non-maritime, herbaceous wetland communities of the Virginia Coastal Plain. October 2002. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. Natural Heritage Technical Report 02-18. 30 pp.
Relationship: I - Intersecting
Reference: Harrison, J. W. 2001. Herbaceous tidal wetland communities of Maryland's eastern shore: Identification, assessment and monitoring. Report submitted to the U.S. EPA (Clean Water Act 1998 State Wetlands Protection Development Grant Program). Biodiversity Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Heritage Division. 30 June 2001. [U.S. EPA Reference Wetland Natural communities of Maryland's Herbaceous Tidal Wetlands Grant #CD993724].
Related Concept Name: Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata high marsh
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Clancy, K. 1993b. A preliminary classification of the natural communities of Delaware. Unpublished draft. Delaware Natural Heritage Inventory, Division of Parks and Recreation, Dover. 30 pp.
Related Concept Name: Spartina patens type
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Cooper, A. W., and E. D. Waits. 1973. Vegetation types in an irregularly flooded salt marsh on the North Carolina Outer Banks. Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 89:78-91.
Related Concept Name: Brackish Marsh (Salt Meadow Cordgrass Subtype)
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Schafale, M. 2000. Fourth approximation guide. Coastal Plain. January 2000 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.
Related Concept Name: High marsh
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Cooper, A. S. 1974. Salt marshes. In: H. T. Odum and B. J. Copeland, editors. Coastal Ecological Systems of the United States. II. The Conservation Foundation, Washington, DC.
Related Concept Name: Salt Marsh
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Schafale, M. P., and A. S. Weakley. 1990. Classification of the natural communities of North Carolina. Third approximation. North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh. 325 pp.
Related Concept Name: Salt marsh
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Higgins, E. A. T., R. D. Rappleye, and R. G. Brown. 1971. The flora and ecology of Assateague Island. University of Maryland Experiment Station Bulletin A-172. 70 pp.
Related Concept Name: Salt marsh community
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Hill, S. R. 1986. An annotated checklist of the vascular flora of Assateague Island (Maryland and Virginia). Castanea 5:265-305.
Related Concept Name: Tidal Mesohaline / Polyhaline Marsh
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Fleming, G. P., P. P. Coulling, D. P. Walton, K. M. McCoy, and M. R. Parrish. 2001. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. First approximation. Natural Heritage Technical Report 01-1. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. 76 pp.
Related Concept Name: Tidal Mesohaline Marsh
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Harrison, J. W., compiler. 2004. Classification of vegetation communities of Maryland: First iteration. A subset of the International Classification of Ecological Communities: Terrestrial Vegetation of the United States, NatureServe. Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis. 243 pp.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES203.260 Atlantic Coastal Plain Embayed Region Tidal Salt and Brackish Marsh
CES203.270 Southern Atlantic Coastal Plain Salt and Brackish Tidal Marsh
CES203.519 Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Tidal Salt Marsh


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: G4G5 (13May2002)
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Although widespread on the eastern seaboard, examples of this community that have not been impacted by ditching, dredging and filling, mosquito spraying, and other activities are relatively uncommon.

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: DE, FL, GA, MD, NC, SC, VA
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This association occurs along the Atlantic Coast from Delaware to Florida.

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Humid Temperate Domain
Division Name: Subtropical Division
Province Name: Outer Coastal Plain Mixed Forest Province
Province Code: 232 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain Section
Section Code: 232A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Coastal Plains and Flatwoods, Lower Section
Section Code: 232B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Atlantic Coastal Flatwoods Section
Section Code: 232C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: This high salt marsh is dominated by Spartina patens with Distichlis spicata occurring as a common associate or a codominant species. Associated species that generally occur in low abundance and sporadically among examples can include Limonium carolinianum, Schoenoplectus americanus, Agalinis maritima, Salicornia virginica, Sabatia stellaris, Borrichia frutescens, Lythrum lineare, Juncus roemerianus, Solidago sempervirens, Pluchea odorata (= Pluchea purpurascens), Hibiscus moscheutos ssp. moscheutos (= Hibiscus palustris), and/or Atriplex prostrata (= Atriplex patula var. hastata). Shrub seedlings of Baccharis halimifolia, Iva frutescens, and/or Morella cerifera (= Myrica cerifera) may occur sporadically.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Kosteletzkya virginica G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Pluchea odorata G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Distichlis spicata G4 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 
Spartina patens G4 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: Y
Environmental Summary: This high salt marsh association generally occurs behind barrier beaches, but also in the outer reaches of estuaries, occupying the zone extending from mean high tide landward approximately to the limit of high spring tides. It often occurs adjacent to low salt marshes dominated by Spartina alterniflora (tall form), which are regularly flooded by diurnal tides. Spartina patens-dominated high marshes form very dense peat with high organic matter content. Peat forms over sand, silt or bedrock.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: Vegetation of this association occurs as a shifting mosaic of patches dominated by single graminoid species. Species composition results from hydroperiod, nutrient availability, salinity gradients, soil oxygen, concentrations of growth inhibitors in the soil, and interspecific competition. As sedimentation increases marsh elevation, vegetation shifts to upland border communities dominated by Panicum virgatum and Juncus gerardii. Local disturbance, i.e., from ice scouring, can cause invasion by Spartina alterniflora, or can lead to the formation of salt pannes.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): L.A. Sneddon, mod. S.L. Neid
Element Description Edition Date: 06Sep2013
Element Description Author(s): L.A. Sneddon and S.L. Neid
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 13May2002
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author(s): S.L. Neid

Ecological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).


References
  • Adams, D. A. 1963. Factors influencing vascular plant zonation in North Carolina salt marshes. Ecology 44:445-456.

  • Bowman, P. 2000. Draft classification for Delaware. Unpublished draft. Delaware Natural Heritage Program.

  • Clancy, K. 1993b. A preliminary classification of the natural communities of Delaware. Unpublished draft. Delaware Natural Heritage Inventory, Division of Parks and Recreation, Dover. 30 pp.

  • Clancy, K. 1996. Natural communities of Delaware. Unpublished review draft. Delaware Natural Heritage Program, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Delaware Division of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Smyrna, DE. 52 pp.

  • Cooper, A. S. 1974. Salt marshes. In: H. T. Odum and B. J. Copeland, editors. Coastal Ecological Systems of the United States. II. The Conservation Foundation, Washington, DC.

  • Cooper, A. W., and E. D. Waits. 1973. Vegetation types in an irregularly flooded salt marsh on the North Carolina Outer Banks. Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 89:78-91.

  • Coulling, P. P. 2002. A preliminary classification of tidal marsh, shrub swamp, and hardwood swamp vegetation and assorted non-tidal, chiefly non-maritime, herbaceous wetland communities of the Virginia Coastal Plain. October 2002. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. Natural Heritage Technical Report 02-18. 30 pp.

  • Coxe, R. 2009. Guide to Delaware vegetation communities. Spring 2009 edition. State of Delaware, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Delaware Natural Heritage Program, Smyrna.

  • Eastern Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Boston, MA.

  • Fleming, G. P. 2001a. Community types of Coastal Plain calcareous ravines in Virginia. Preliminary analysis and classification. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. 4 pp.

  • Fleming, G. P., K. Taverna, and P. P. Coulling. 2007b. Vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks, eastern region. Regional (VA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2007. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.

  • Fleming, G. P., P. P. Coulling, D. P. Walton, K. M. McCoy, and M. R. Parrish. 2001. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. First approximation. Natural Heritage Technical Report 01-1. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. 76 pp.

  • Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2003. Preliminary vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks. Regional (VA-WVA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2003. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.

  • Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2011a. Natural communities of Virginia: Ecological groups and community types. Natural Heritage Technical Report 11-07. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. 34 pp.

  • Govus, T. E. 1998. Fort Pulaski National Monument Inventory. Final report. Purchase Order # 1443PX509097564. Prepared for National Park Service, Southeast Region, Atlanta, GA. 33 pp. plus appendices and maps.

  • Harrison, J. W. 2001. Herbaceous tidal wetland communities of Maryland's eastern shore: Identification, assessment and monitoring. Report submitted to the U.S. EPA (Clean Water Act 1998 State Wetlands Protection Development Grant Program). Biodiversity Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Heritage Division. 30 June 2001. [U.S. EPA Reference Wetland Natural communities of Maryland's Herbaceous Tidal Wetlands Grant #CD993724].

  • Harrison, J. W. 2011. The natural communities of Maryland: 2011 working list of ecological community groups and community types. Unpublished report. Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Heritage Service, Natural Heritage Program, Annapolis. 33 pp.

  • Harrison, J. W., compiler. 2004. Classification of vegetation communities of Maryland: First iteration. A subset of the International Classification of Ecological Communities: Terrestrial Vegetation of the United States, NatureServe. Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis. 243 pp.

  • Higgins, E. A. T., R. D. Rappleye, and R. G. Brown. 1971. The flora and ecology of Assateague Island. University of Maryland Experiment Station Bulletin A-172. 70 pp.

  • Hill, S. R. 1986. An annotated checklist of the vascular flora of Assateague Island (Maryland and Virginia). Castanea 5:265-305.

  • Nelson, J. B. 1986. The natural communities of South Carolina: Initial classification and description. South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, Columbia, SC. 55 pp.

  • Peet, R. K., T. R. Wentworth, M. P. Schafale, and A.S. Weakley. No date. Unpublished data of the North Carolina Vegetation Survey. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

  • Penfound, W. T. 1952. Southern swamps and marshes. Botanical Review 7:413-446.

  • Schafale, M. 2000. Fourth approximation guide. Coastal Plain. January 2000 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

  • Schafale, M. 2003b. Fourth approximation guide. Coastal Plain communities. March 2003 draft. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

  • Schafale, M. P. 2012. Classification of the natural communities of North Carolina, 4th Approximation. North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

  • Schafale, M. P., and A. S. Weakley. 1990. Classification of the natural communities of North Carolina. Third approximation. North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh. 325 pp.

  • TNC [The Nature Conservancy]. 1995c. NBS/NPS Vegetation Mapping Program: Vegetation classification of Assateague Island National Seashore. Unpublished report. The Nature Conservancy, Eastern Regional Office, Boston, MA.


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