Ammophila arenaria (L.) Link   

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Tracheophyta – vascular plants
Subphylum: Magnoliophytina – flowering plants
Class: Liliopsida – monocotyledons
Order: Cyperales
Family: Poaceae – grasses

British distribution: Common around the British coast, occasional introduction inland.
World distribution: Coasts of Europe, excluding arctic and subarctic regions. A separate subspecies (subsp. breviligulata) in North America.

This grass is the prime colonist of unstable and mobile sand hills in dune systems, dominating the 'white dune' stage. It is commonly a component of other plant communities at tops of beaches and on very sandy coastal ground.

The tussocks have the ability to grow back through covering sand after being buried and can withstand sand accretion rates of up to 1 metre per year. The tussocks trap wind-blown sand and the root and rhizome growth stabilises the mobile dunes. It is drought tolerant, able to grow well above the water table, and tolerant too of the substantial temperature fluctuations on open sand surfaces. It is widely planted to repair or stabilise dune areas, though it can become a problem where introduced outside its native range.

The leaves are adapted to avoid excessive water loss; the stomata are confined to furrows on the upper (adaxial) surface of the leaf and the leaves themselves remain inrolled except in humid conditions.

•   Huiskes, A.H.L. (1979) Biological flora of the British Isles: Ammophila arenaria (L.) Link. Journal of Ecology 67: 363-382.

© A.J. Silverside
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