New York Natural Heritage Program
Champlain Beachgrass
Ammophila breviligulata ssp. champlainensis (Seymour) P.J. Walker, C.A. Paris & Barrington ex Barkworth

General Description [-]
Champlain dune grass dominates the small dunes of Lake Champlain and portions of Lake Ontario. Long rhizomes produce many clumps that can be scattered in the sand or tightly arranged to cover the dune. Many long, flexible, very narrow leaves arise like a fountain from a central clump. They are flat at the base but the margins become inrolled toward the narrow sharp tip. One to many flowering stems grow from the base of the clump and reach 2-3 feet in height. They produce many flowers arranged in a compact spike-like inflorescence 13-21 cm long in the top half to one-third of the stem. A so-called flag leaf arises just below the inflorescence and measures 8-22 cm long. The yellow anthers give the inflorescence its color as they hang out of the flowers. When the flowers mature and senesce they turn tan to brown. Reproduction is primarily vegetative and seed production and seedling survival is very low. Flowering stems are seen more often in moving sand near the water and can be absent in plants that persist in sand that has been stabilized for many years.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification [-]
Catching this grass in flower offers the best opportunity to properly identify it. A specimen should be collected and measurements made of the flag leaf and panicle to properly identify this species.

Similar Species [-]
Ammophila breviligulata occurs on the Atlantic coast and has been planted throughout the range of Ammophila champlainensis. This more common species has a larger panicle (23-30 cm long), larger flag leaf (30-24 cm long), and flowers in late August and September.
Champlain Beachgrass Images
click to enlarge
Images of Similar Species
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
This grass flowers in late June to early July. The flowering stalks and leaves can be seen whenever they are not covered by snow, but they are often difficult to identify to the species level unless you are intimately familar with Ammophila. Surveys should be conducted during the peak flowering period.
Flowering Fruiting
The time of year you would expect to find Champlain Beachgrass flowering (blue shading) and fruiting (orange shading) in New York.