Flowering Plants

When I think about flowering plants on the exposed outer coast’s intertidal ecosystems, I’m probably thinking about surfgrass, Phyllospadix, and eelgrass, Zostera. Dunegrass, Leymus, and beachgrass, Ammophila, shape the dunes, so I include them. I can’t help but feature other worthy flowering plants that pioneer down onto the backshore, like sea rocket, Cakile, and where dunes are absent, the willows, Salix. I’m fascinated by any plant that will creep down far enough to get an occasional salty soaking.

Unless mentioned in the caption, all the plants on this page are from the exposed northern Oregon coast. The organization and common names are my choices. I refer to the USDA PLANTS Database and the University and Jepson Herbaria for scientific names and distribution records. There’s always a chance I’ll make an identification error. Let me know if you see one.

Zostera marina, eelgrass
Eelgrass is at home in the bays and estuaries. Its appearance on the surf-swept beaches is as wrack. Eelgrass is featured in Eelgrass in the Wrack and Beach Hoppers Rejoice Over Drift Macrophytes.

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Phyllospadix, surfgrass
I’ve always thought the common, abundant surfgrass shown below is P. scouleri, but there are alternatives. Surfgrass is at home on rocks, where it’s exposed by the lowest tides. Like eelgrass, it is sometimes prevalent in the drift line. I featured surfgrass in Finding yourself in the Infralittoral Fringe, and Comparative Photos Show Rocky Intertidal Changes Between 2013 and 2016.

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Leymus, dunegrass
Dunegrass used to be the dominant grass on dunes. Now it’s hard to find in the near-monoculture of Ammophila on our dunes. Wide grayish-green leaves set Leymus apart from Ammophila, which has narrow yellowish-green leaves. Leymus is featured in Dunegrass Finds Breathing Room on the Backshore. Click here to view a short video showing Leymus and Ammophila on a northern Oregon foredune.

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Dunegrass, Leymus, creeping down off the foredune onto the backshore

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Ammophila, beachgrass
Look for near-monocultures of Ammophila on almost any dune trail. Ammophila appears in Beachgrass Lights Up the Foredune and Stability and Change on the Foredune.

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Gaultheria shallon, salal

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Dock, Rumex Rumex are kind of a mystery to me. I’ve encountered some real beach pioneers, and this makes sense, most Rumex they have broad habitat tolerances. I’ve detected a couple on beach sand. They’re both shown below.

In flower on Beach sand
Willow Dock, Rumex salicifolius can tolerate some salt

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Sea rocket, Cakile edentula By summer, look for flowering sea rocket wherever there is a well developed backshore.

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Sea rocket, Cakile endentula; in the background, the foredune with beachgrass, Ammophila arenaria

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Wild radish, Raphanus

On the sand, among cobbles and bigger rocks
By September, this radish, possibly Raphanus raphanistrum, was in full bloom

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Honckenya peploides, sea purslane, seabeach sandwort

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Potentilla anserina, Pacific potentilla, silverweed

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Sea-watch, Angelica lucida Sea watch will get right down on the beach, especially where forested bluffs extend straight to the shore.

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Seaside Plantain, Plantago maritima

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Plantago maritima, pioneering onto a wrack line rubble of cobbles and sea shells

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A pioneering dandelion

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A pioneering dandelion

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Coast mugwort, Artemisia suksdorfii

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Willow, Salix – I think this one is Hooker’s willow, S. hookeriana, also known as coastal or dune willow. Wherever the forest drops right down to the beach, especially where there are seeps, Salix can push down toward the intertidal as far as any forest plant – so low that they expose themselves to damage by winter’s high surf. Salix was featured in Sign of the Season.

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References

Kozloff, E. N. 1993. Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific Coast. 3rd ed. University of Washington Press.

Lamb, A. and B. P. Hanby. 2005. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing.

Pojar , J. and A. MacKinnon. 194. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Lone Pine Publishing.

Web Resources

USDA PLANTS

Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest

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