Ammophila arenaria - European Beachgrass

Family: Poaceae [E-flora]


  • A. arundinacea. Psamma arenaria [PFAF].


This species was introduced to the beaches of western North America in the mid-nineteenth century for sand dune stabilization, and can now be found from California to British Columbia. It is invasive in sand dune systems where it can produce dense homogeneous stands. It "has changed the topography of some California beach ecosystems, especially in sand dunes...and was a major cause of the destruction of native dune habitat in Oregon and Washington during the twentieth century" (Wikipedia 2009).[E-flora] "This non-native plant was introduced to the West Coast around 1898 to stabilize dunes. Since then, it has spread up and down the coast and now is found from British Columbia to southern California (Ventura County). In the late twentieth century, European beachgrass was a major dune plant occurring at about 50% of California breeding sites and all of those in Oregon and Washington. Stabilizing sand dunes with European beachgrass has reduced the amount of nonvegetated area above the tideline, decreased the width of the beach, and increased its slope. These changes have reduced the amount of potential nesting habitat for the species on many beaches and may hamper brood movements.... The abundance and diversity of sand dune arthropods are markedly depressed in areas dominated by European beachgrass." [Beacham ESNA V.1]

  • General: Perennial grass from rhizomes, the rhizomes tough, elongate, connecting tufts; stems wiry, hollow, up to 110 cm tall. [IFBC-E-flora]
  • Leaves: Sheaths open, smooth; blades stiff, 2-4 mm wide, in-rolled, smooth; ligules 10-25 mm long, short-hairy, pointed, the margins entire but sometimes jagged. [IFBC-E-flora]
  • Flowers: Inflorescence a spikelike panicle, (10) 15-30 cm long, mostly 15-20 mm wide when pressed; glumes pale, 10-14 mm long, subequal, the upper ones longer; lemmas 8-13 mm long, shorter than the lower glumes, usually with the midribs barely continuing as short points just below the tips, the callus bearding 2-3 mm long; rachilla vestiges about 1.5 mm long; anthers about 4.5 mm long; lodicules about 1.5 mm long. [IFBC-E-flora]

USDA Flower Colour: Yellow
USDA Blooming Period: Spring
USDA Fruit/Seed characteristics:

Colour: Brown
Present from Spring to Summer [USDA-E-flora]

Habitat / Range

Sand dunes and sandy beaches in the lowland zone; locally frequent on the Queen Charlotte Islands, Vancouver Island and the lower mainland (Crescent Beach); introduced from Europe. [IFBC-E-flora] "Dunes, disturbed areas; native of Europe. Introduced in MD and PA" [Weakley FSMAS]

Edible Uses

  • Root: [74]. No more details, but the root is rather thin and fibrous[K] [PFAF].

Other Uses

  • Building Material: The flowering stems and leaves are used for thatching, in basketry, making brooms etc[61, 66, 100] [PFAF]
  • Cordage: The rhizomes are used for making rope and mats[115] [PFAF]
  • Papermaking: A fibre obtained from the stems is used for making paper[189]. The stems are harvested in the summer, cut into usable pieces and soaked for 24 hours in clear water before cooking for 2 hours with soda ash. Beat the fibres in a ball mill for 1½ hours. The fibres make a tan-brown paper[189] [PFAF]
  • Soil Stabilizer: This plant has an extensive root system and grows naturally in sand dunes along the coast where it is very important for its action of binding the dunes and therefore allowing other plants to grow. It is much planted in sand dunes and other similar habitats for erosion control[200] [PFAF]


"This is a robust and sclerophyllous perennial grass which functions as an evergreen geophyte or chamaephyte. It is confined to mobile sand dunes, mostly in coastal areas of Europe, Asia, and Africa (Huiskes 1979; Gehu 1985). It was introduced to the western coast of the USA in the late 1800s. It has since spread north to Canada and south to San Louis Obispo (Breckon and Barbour 1974). Environmentalists agree that the plant spreads aggressively in California and in many places has caused the disappearance of the native vegetation of the mobile dunes. It occupies mobile sand, but may also dominate stable coastal dunes in Europe ("grey dunes" of Chapman 1976). Old stable coastal dunes at Bodega Head and Point Reyes peninsula, California, for example, are dominated by A. arenaria." [Danin PDD]

"Growing in areas with relatively high amounts of rainfall, the continuous vertical reactive growth of orthogeocorms leads to the formation of high dunes. This is true in many coastal areas of Europe where the foredune looks like a vegetated wall separating the land from the sea. The tendency for the foredune to grow vertically and to arrest mobile sand in coastal California has been discussed by Barbour et al. (1993) in relation to its impact on decreasing habitat and species diversity. Our study of plant succession on coastal dunes in Bodega Head, California (Danin et al. 1995) shows sand accretion in A. arenaria nebkas to have been at a rate of 10 cm/year for the last 40 years." [Danin PDD]

"...planted dune grass species Ammophila arenaria, which is attacked by various root fungi and nematodes, and may temporarily escape by growing its roots towards pathogen-free blown-in sand (van der Putten et al. 1993)". [Dighton IIS]

"Among the native plants that can stabilize a low dune is dune grass (Leymus mollis subsp. mollis); a still more effective stabilizer is beach grass (Ammophila arenaria subsp. arenaria), brought to North America from Europe to reduce the extent to which loose sand moves in the direction of homes and highways." [Kozloff PWO]

  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi: " has been demonstrated that AM fungi can control nematodes feeding in the dune grass Ammophila arenaria (De La Pen ˜a et al. 2006) and protect plants from pathogens or parasites (Gworgwor and Weber 2003; Newsham et al. 1995)." [SoilBio-41]
    • Poland (AM Species): Acaulospora koskei, Entrophospora baltica, Glomus corymbiforme and G. gibbosum [Souza HAMF]
    • Entomopathogens/nematophagous Fungi: Beauveria bassiana, Lecanicillium lecanii, and Plectosphaerella cucumerina [Verma AER]
  • Aphid Host Plant: "Atheroides serrulatus; Chaetosiphella ?stipae; Forda marginata; Geoica harpazi, utricularia group; Laingia psammae; Schizaphis rufula; Sipha elegans; Sitobion sylvesteri; Tetraneura ulmi" [Blackman AWHPS]
  • Pathogenic Fungi: "In coastal sand dune studies that focused on the degeneration of pioneer plant species, Verticillium and Fusarium species were isolated from declining stands of the dune grass Ammophila arenaria in The Netherlands (Van der Putten et al. 1990)" [Pugnaire FPE]

Related Sp.

Ammophila (Beach-grass)
"A genus of 2-3 species, rhizomatous perennials, north temperate." [Weakley FSMAS]

  • 1 Ligule 10-35 mm long ............. A. arenaria
  • 1 Ligule 1-4.6 mm long .....................A. breviligulata

Ammophila breviligulata "Fernald, American Beach-grass. Dunes. August-September. NL (Newfoundland) south to about Cape Hatteras, Dare County, NC, and on shores around the Great Lakes; planted further south. As a native grass, Ammophila ranged south only to NC, where it was rare; it is now commonly planted ("sprigged") in the Carolinas as a sand-binder and is now common south into SC." [Weakley FSMAS]

Local Species;

  1. Ammophila arenaria - European beachgrass
  2. Ammophila breviligulata - Sand reed


  • Beacham ESNA V.1 - Beacham’s guide to the endangered species of North America, Walton Beacham, Frank V. Castronova, and Suzanne Sessine, 2001 Gale Group Inc., Farming Hills, MI.

Notable Journals Not Included

  • Błaszkowski J, Czerniawska B (2011) Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (Glomeromycota) associated with roots of Ammophila arenaria growing in maritime dunes of Bornholm (Denmark). Acta Soc Bot Pol 80:63–76
  • Dalton DA, Kramer S, Azios N, Fusaro S, Cahill E, Kennedy C (2004) Endophytic nitrogen fixation in dune grasses (Ammophila arenaria and Elymus mollis) from Oregon. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 49:469–479
  • Rodríguez-Echeverría S, Hol WHG, Freitas H, Eason WR, Cook R (2008) Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi of Ammophila arenaria (L.) Link: spore abundance and root colonisation in six locations of the European coast. Eur J Soil Biol 44:30–36
  • Kowalchuk GA, Souza FA, Van Veen JA (2002) Community analysis of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi associated with Ammophila arenaria in Dutch coastal sand dunes. Mol Ecol 11:571–581

Page last modified on Sunday, March 29, 2020 9:52 PM