Marine Wildlife Encyclopedia
Marram Grass Ammophila arenaria
Marram grass is a tall, spiky grass that plays a key role in binding coastal sand and building sand dunes. Its underground stems (rhizomes) spread through loose sand, and upright shoots develop regularly along their length. When the tangle of stems and leaves impede onshore breezes, sand carried in the wind is deposited. Progressively, the sand builds up, the stems grow up through the sand, and a sand dune is formed. In dry weather, the leaves curl into a tube. The underside of the leaf then forms the outer surface and its waxy coating helps to reduce water loss from the plant. Marram grass is widely planted to stabilize eroded dunes, and has been introduced for this purpose to North America (where it is known as European beach grass), Chile, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.