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

Distichlis spicata (L.) Greene
seashore saltgrass (alkali saltgrass (var. stricta); saltgrass; seashore saltgrass (var. spicata))
Poaceae (Grass family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #7411)

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Distribution of Distichlis spicata
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Species Information

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Perennial, dioecious grass from rhizomes, the rhizomes extensive, sharp-tipped, sometimes more or less stoloniferous; stems solid, sometimes decumbent, 10-40 cm tall/long.
Sheaths smooth except on the summits of the margins, the collars with or without long hairs; blades 2-4 mm wide, mostly in-rolled, smooth or soft-hairy to stiff-hairy on the upper surface; ligules about 0.5 mm long, the margins irregularly jagged, more or less fringed with coarse hairs, the fronts of the collars with many hairs, 0.5-3 mm long.
Inflorescence a compact to loose panicle 3-8 cm long, the spikelets and their stalks obvious or the stalks not obvious; spikelets few- to many-flowered, the male ones yellowish, 7- to 16-flowered, strongly compressed, the female more greenish, 5- to 9-flowered; glumes shorter than the lower lemmas, unequal, the lower ones about 3.5 mm long, the upper about 5 mm long; lemmas membranous (male spikelets) or more or less firm-papery (female spikelets), about 3-6 mm long, the female lemmas harder.
Two varieties occur in BC

1. Long hairs usually present on the collars as well as at the summits of the sheath margins; plants of the steppe zone..................... var. stricta (Torr.) Beetle

1. Hairs usually lacking on the collars, present only on the summits of the sheath margins; plants maritime....................... var. spicata

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Summer
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Sandy lake shores and moist alkaline meadows in the steppe zone (var. stricta) or coastal beaches and salt marshes (var. spicata); var. spicata - frequent in SW BC; var. stricta - common in SC BC; var. stricta - E to SK and S to MO, OK, TX and CA; var. spicata - S to CA, disjunct to E coast of North America.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Distichlis spicata

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 285 748 1167
Slope Gradient (%) 0 3 15
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 351 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
3 4 6
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: BG(1), IDF(13), PP(8)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Distichlis spicata subsp. stricta (Torr.) Thorne
Distichlis spicata var. borealis (J. Presl) Beetle
Distichlis spicata var. divaricata Beetle
Distichlis spicata var. nana Beetle
Distichlis spicata var. stolonifera Beetle
Distichlis spicata var. stricta (Torr.) Scribn.
Distichlis stricta (Torr.) Rydb.
Distichlis stricta var. dentata (Rydb.) C.L. Hitchc.
Uniola spicata L.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References