information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Common saltmarsh grass (Puccinellia maritima)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



A morphologically variable perennial grass, 3 -80 cm high. May form tall, erect, dense tufts or loose, spreading, prostrate turfs up to 1m in diameter. Leaves greyish green to dark green in colour, tinged with yellow, red or purple and may be stiff, flat, folded or in-rolled with hooded tips. Roots fibrous with stolons spreading but sometimes erect. Inflorescence typically grass-like, spikelets composed of 3-6 (up to 10) flowers on stiff stems 2 -25 cm tall.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Common in saltmarsh habitats around the British Isles.

Global distribution

Occurs commonly in suitable habitats along the western coast of Europe, from north Norway and the Baltic Sea to Portugal, and in Iceland, the Faeroes and south Greenland.


Common on the sands, muds and loams of littoral saltmarsh up to the mean high water of neap tides but occasionally on soil filled shingle and sea cliffs, or in lochs, saline seeps, and saline drainage ditches.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • A minute membranous flap (ligule) present at base of leaf.
  • Leaf sheath rounded, smooth with a free white-pink margin.
  • Leaves with two narrow secondary furrows either side of midrib.
  • Stolons present.
  • Stomatal flaps absent on lower leaf surface.
  • Spikelet with 3-6 (up to 10) flowers with unequal glumes.
  • Lemmas (the lower petal) 2.8 -4.6mm in length.
  • Anthers large, 1.3 -2.5mm in length.

Additional information

A detailed description of Puccinellia maritima was given by Gray & Scott (1977). May be confused with red fescue Festuca rubra.

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. BSBI, 2000. Botanical Society of the British Isles database. [On-line], 2001-10-26

  2. Cronquist, A., 1988. The evolution and classification of flowering plants (2nd edn). New York: New York Botanical Garden.

  3. Gray, A.J. & Scott, R., 1977a. Biological flora of the British Isles. Puccinellia maritima (Huds.) Parl. Journal of Ecology, 65, 699-716.

  4. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

  5. Stace, C., 1999. Field flora of the British Isles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


This review can be cited as:

Tyler-Walters, H., 2001. Puccinellia maritima Common saltmarsh grass. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 18-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 26/10/2001