What is native dunegrass?

Native dunegrass (Elymus mollis or Leymus mollis) is a type of large grass that normally grows on sand and gravel beaches. The leaves are dusty to bright green, 6 to 15 mm wide and 30 to 80 mm long. The stems may grow up to 1.5 m tall. In undisturbed areas, native dunegrass can form a dense fringe between the beach and the forest, its blades gently waving and rustling in the wind. It is an important colonizing plant among sand dunes and driftwood, and helps to stabilize shifting sand so that other plants can grow there.

Where does native dunegrass grow?

Native dunegrass grows exclusively next to the ocean, on sand and gravel beaches, along the Pacific coast from Alaska to California, including small offshore islands around the Victoria area, native dunegrass can be found along Coburg Peninsula in Esquimalt Lagoon, at Witty’s Lagoon in Metchosin, and at Island View Beach north of Victoria.

How have people used native dunegrass?

Various First Nations on the west coast of B.C., including the Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, Haida and Tlingit used native dunegrass for making baskets, tumplines, and packstraps. In Japan, native dunegrass is cultivated for basket weaving.

What threatens dunegrass?

Trampling can be destructive to dunegrass, so it is important to avoid walking through it, and to stay on established paths. Introduced invasive species such as European beach grass (Ammophila arenaria) and American beach grass (Ammophila breviligulata) are becoming established on many outer coast beaches, and outcompeting native dunegrass.

How can I help protect native dunegrass?

Native dunegrass is particularly important for stabilizing sand dunes.

For information on protecting native dunegrass, please visit our How Can I Help? section.

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