E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Ammophila breviligulata subsp. breviligulata
sand reed
Poaceae (Grass family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Adolf Ceska  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #5913)

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Distribution of Ammophila breviligulata ssp. breviligulata
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This species is native to sand dunes along the Atlantic Coast and the Great Lakes shoreline, where it is a species of active sand dunes (Maun 2009); vigour and flowering are highest in active dunes (Page 2001). It was introduced to the Pacific Coast in the 1930's and first reported in British Coilumbia in 2001 (Page 2001). It is invasive in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, and "has caused substantial changes to sand movement, beach morphology, and vegetation along sand beaches and adjacent dunes on western Vancouver Island" (Page 2001). Page (2001) provides the following information: "Ammophila breviligulata is distinguished from A. arenaria by smaller ligules (1-3 mm versus 10-30 mm long in A. arenaria), wider and less inrolled leaves, longer flower spike (25-35 cm versus 15-25 cm long in A. arenaria), and scaly rather than puberulent leaf veins on the upper leaf surface (Hitchcock, 1950). Vegetative material may also be confused with Leymus mollis. However, leaves of Leymus mollis are typically wider (15-20 mm versus 5-15 mm long in A. breviligulata and are distinctly glaucous compared to yellowish green in A. breviligulata. As well, L. mollis generally has auricles and has puberulent rather than scaly leaf veins."


Maun, Anwar. 2009. The Biology of Coastal Sand Dunes. Oxford University Press, London.

Page, Nick. 2001. Ammophila breviligulata (Poaceae) new to British Columbia. Botanical Electronic News 276.

Species Information

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Perennial grass from firm widely creeping rhizomes; stems stout, erect, simple, rigid, smooth, 50-100 cm tall.
Sheaths smooth; blades 4-8 mm wide when unrolled, elongate, soon in-rolled, minutely toothed and rough on the nerves above; ligules blunt, minutely fringed, 1-3 mm long.
Inflorescence a dense, linear-cylindric panicle, 10-40 cm long, mostly 10-25 mm wide, whitish-brown or slightly purple-tinged, the base often enclosed in the upper sheath, the rachis short-hairy; spikelets compressed, 8-12 mm long; glumes short-hairy, about equal, 10-15 mm long, rounded to pointed, rough on the keels, somewhat rough to smooth on the sides; lemmas 9-13 mm long, short stiff-hairy on the sides and keels, pointed at the tips, the callus hairs 1-4 mm long, the paleas rounded; rachilla prolongation hairy, about 2 mm long, anthers linear, 6-8 mm long.
This species was collected for the first time in BC by N. Page in 2001. It has likely been in the Tofino area for some time since it occurs in fairly large concentrations, on several beaches.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Sand dunes and sandy beaches in the lowland zone; locally infrequent on the W coast of Vancouver Island, known only from the Tofino area; introduced from SE USA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Ammophila breviligulata Fernald

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References