Spartina alterniflora Loisel., commonly known as smooth cordgrass, or Atlantic cordgrass, or saltmarsh cordgrass, is a tall clumping perennial grass with dense rhizomatous networks. The stems are hollow and grow up to 3 m in height. The leaves have flat blades which grows up to 90 cm in long, 1.5 to 2.0 cm in wide that are sometimes rolled at the tip. Flowering occurs June to November. The flowers occur in erect wands (panicles) 10 to 45 cm in long, each composed of 5 to 30 individual flowering spikes. The branch axes are triangular, with two rows of sessile, overlapping spikelets on the lower side. Spikelets are strongly flattened, keeled, and lanceolate, 8-15 mm long, with one floret and a pair of straight, unequal glumes. Spikelets detach from below the glumes. Glume and lemma keels are glabrous to sparsely covered with long, soft hairs and the ligule is hairy (Hitchcock et al. 1969; Xu, 1998). The root system of S. alterniflora is very developing and distributes to 30 cm, even to 1 m underground.
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