Beach or Marram grass (Ammophila breviligulata). We’ve all recognize this one as it grows in a wide band, mostly just above the beach. Beach grasses’ extensive root system keeps the dunes from eroding and the 3-4-foot-high blades trap blowing sand – building dunes. This grass is rarely mowed, but trimming, excessive walking, and/or driving on it causes damage.
Sand Reed grass (Calamovilfa longifolia) is a lesser known grass which grows in the upper dunes, generally landward of Ottawa Trail. This beautiful tall grass forms loose clumps, sending flowering stalks 4-5 feet into the air. Sand Reed is an important sand-binder, but mowing cuts off all the green leaves – eventually killing it. Thus, it is a prime victim of dune cutting and mowing.
Little Bluestem (Andropogon scoparius) grows in sandy upland areas and prairies. A bunchgrass it’s often associated with Sand Reed grass. This species lives in our upper dunes giving them an attractive purplish color in the fall. Little bluestem also is killed by repeated mowing.
Help Keep Cobmoosa Natural Looking
We all come to Cobmoosa for its natural beauty and the dunes with their native grasses are important components. Mowing and trimming encourages erosion and weeds. This in turn negatively affects songbirds and wildlife. The three grasses mentioned above all give Cobmoosa a windswept look in the dune area, a look which simply cannot be created with turf grass. Indeed, turf grass will not grow well on sand.
Lake Michigan, the dune grasses, and forests, all make Cobmoosa an amazing place. Some may wish to recreate a suburban look with their cottage and lots but we should at least leave our common areas natural. Once the grasses are gone they are, unfortunately, hard to restore.
Editor’s note: To see photos of these grasses please visit the Photo Gallery and scroll to the bottom.