Dune Grass

Ammophila breviligulata

The dune grass and maritime dry grasslands communities occupy 137 of the refuge’s 8,501 acres and tend to occur in the eastern section of the refuge. The floral diversity and distribution on the North Carolina portions of the Currituck Banks are interesting and complex. The Currituck National Wildlife Refuge is located in a transition zone between northern and southern groups of plant species. The warm Gulf Stream waters turn offshore at Cape Hatteras and the Labrador Current moves southward along the Currituck Banks, creating a zone where northern species have their southern limits and southern species have their northern limits. 

The dune grass community immediately west of the beach are dominated by American beachgrass, bitter panicum, saltmeadow cordgrass, and sea oats. American beachgrass is near its natural southern limit, while sea oats is considered to be at the northern limit of its range. Both American beachgrass and sea oats develop extensive horizontal and vertical rhizomes that capture moisture from rainfall. These rhizomes further serve to bind sand and stabilize sand surfaces. Beach grass and sea oats are adapted to tolerate stresses such as salt spray, overwash, sand blast, and drought, all of which are characteristic of the foredune area. However, both species are extremely vulnerable to mechanical disturbance of the soils. 
As the dunes are stabilized and conditions become more favorable, other species will invade the strand community. Sea rocket, evening primrose, seaside goldenrod, beach pea, sandspurs, daisy fleabane, and spurge are other common dune plants. The width of the dunes varies along Currituck Banks. In those areas where artificial dunes have been built, the berm crest and backslope often no longer exist or are severely eroded. Generally, those areas with natural berms are wide, gently sloping and frequently overwashed by storm tides.

Facts About Dune Grass

  • 137 acres
  • American Beachgrass 
  • Bitter Panicum
  • Saltmeadow Cordgrass
  • Sea Oats