This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
This littoral grass is found in the North Temperate region in Europe and N. Africa, not having yet been found in any Glacial plant beds. In Great Britain it is found on the coast of all maritime counties except W. Kent, Gloucs, S. Lines, Westmorland, I. of Man, Lanark, Perth, Westerness, Main Argyll, N. Ebudes, Ross, E. Sutherland, as far north as the Shetlands. It is a native of Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Marram Grass is a common maritime species, so much so as to form practically an association along the littoral with different species of Agropyron and Elymus. It grows only on sandy coasts, being strictly a sand-lover, as the second Latin name indicates, and frequents sandhills at high-water level, invading the sand dunes inland for some distance. It has been regularly planted in Norfolk for coast protection, and laws regulate its removal.
The stem is tall, erect, stout, rigid, from a creeping root (with numerous tubers), which is matted and binds the sand around its base closely together. The leaves are long, smooth on the outside, rough within, with their edges rolled inward, acute, and bluish-green, with long sheaths at the base, and the ligule is torn, long, and split into two portions.
The panicle is cylindrical, linear, stouter in the middle. The glumes are long, acute, with hairs a third as long as the palea. The anthers are yellow and linear.
Marram Grass is 2, 3, or 4 ft. high. Flowers may be found in July. The plant is a perennial, propagated by division, and widely planted.
The flowers are bisexual, and pollinated by the wind. There are 3 stamens, short styles, and feathery stigmas. The anthers are yellow and linear.
The fruit is attached to the glume, and is dispersed by the latter by aid of the wind.
The plant is a salt-lover and grows in saline soil, and is at the same time a sand plant, and grows in the sand.
It is attacked by a fungus, Ustilago hypodytes, and is galled by Eurytoma hyalipennis. A Heteropterous insect, Chorosoma schillingi, and a Homopterous insect. Liburnia boldi, are found on Marram Grass.
Ammophila is from the Greek psammos (= aminos), sand, and phileo, I love, and the second Latin name refers to the sandy habitat. Marram, Danish Markalm = sea haulm or straw.
This plant is called Bent, Broad Bent, Helme. Marram, Mat-grass, Mat Reed, Signs, Spire, Stare.
On account of the long creeping rhizomes it is used for binding sand together, and has helped to reclaim much land on the east coast. It is both planted and encouraged on the Norfolk and other coasts, having rhizomes 30 ft. long sometimes, which are used as ropes. It is used for thatching. So important was the service it rendered in staving back the advance of the sea that it was held to be penal to destroy it, laws being framed to prevent its destruction. It has been used for mats (hence the name).
Photo. Messrs. Flatters & Garnett - Marram Grass (Ammophila arenaria, Link.)
Essential Specific Characters: 332. Ammophila arenaria, Link. - Stem tall, erect, leaves involute, glaucous, long, panicle in spike, cylindrical, glumes keeled.