September 11, 2020
There’s so much more beauty in a salt marsh than first meets the eye

by Mary Reid Barrow

This time of year, the  vibrant green marsh along the trail at 64th Street in First Landing State Park is about as beautiful as it can be. 

 It’s really a grand scene— graceful Spartina grasses waving  in the breeze with handsome dark needlerush in the background and  the big blousy white clouds of late summer overhead.

 That is the big picture of the  beautiful salt  marsh  this time of year.  But stop and take a closer look and  you will be surprised at  the little beauties all around.   

 Look closely at the Spartina, also called saltmarsh cordgrass.  The Spartina is blooming!   You can see very small flowers  on the upper grass blades.  Though Spartina blooms grow alternately on the reeds, the tiny buds  make me think they are hugging each other round the stems:

 Who would expect to see dainty white flowers on this tough marsh grass that stands strong on our shorelines and  helps protect the land from flooding and erosion?  The little flowers truly belie the  sturdiness of this  green reed that’s actually so tough it  can drink salt water and then cry salt tears to  survive.

 But don’t stop with the Spartina blooms. Crop your marsh picture even closer and what  do you see but minute lavender blooms on many  branching fleshy green stems.   It’s sea lavender, of all things.  Who would have thought this dainty flower would be in a salt marsh?

 That day I was joined by another one grateful for this tiny lavender beauty, a butterfly called a salt marsh skipper.   The brown skipper, also tiny with some tiny pale spots, was  darting around the plants  and nectaring on the lavender flowers.   

 And before you leave the Spartina scene,  take one more look , this time down at the wetlands floor.  You will find yet another,  even smaller blooming gift  from the marsh, the saltmarsh aster  with its white petals and yellow center.  

 Aster comes from the Greek for star and this little star  shines to call attention to all the small beauties that make up the beautiful whole of a salt marsh.  

Do you have a favorite tree or plant with a story to tell?  What relationships have you observed  between plants and critters?  Who eats whom?  Who has babies where?   Send an email to


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