Avoid non-native vegetation: The establishment of non-native dune vegetation, such as lawn grass and typical landscape trees and shrubs, should be minimized within the dune because these plants do not have the root systems and salt tolerance necessary to create a healthy dune environment to withstand the sometimes harsh conditions of the coastal environment.
Manage for endangered species: In some cases on beaches and dunes, actions you might take could impact threatened or endangered species such as piping plovers. Always check with CT DEEP Natural Diversity Database to determine if you have rare species present on your property. If present, consultation with state and federal wildlife agencies will be needed before action can be taken.
Plant native dune species: Dune planting typically uses species of plants that are native to the coastal sand dune system. In Connecticut, this includes American beach grass (Ammophila breviligulata), which is the dominant dune species. Other common species include Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) and Beach Pea (Lathyrus japonicus).
Avoid Planting Invasive Species:
Rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa), also known as beach or Japanese rose, is native to Asia and was introduced to the United States as a garden and landscape ornamental around 1845. It soon escaped from cultivation and naturalized to the New England coast, where it is now a characteristic feature of seaside Connecticut. Its ability to spread rapidly and shade out native plants has earned this species an invasive designation in some states, and it is not recommended as a plant to introduce to a dune system. In Connecticut, rugosa rose is considered potentially invasive, but is not banned from sale. Where it is already established, removing or pulling out plants is not recommended as it can disturb the sand, and the root system does provide good erosion control. If invasive plant control measures are taken on dunes, aboveground biomass can be removed leaving the root system for temporary erosion control, and native species planted.
Seaside goldenrod, Solidago sempervirens is a native salt-tolerant dune plant. Photo: Juliana Barrett
American Beach Grass Planting Techniques:
American beach grass, Ammophila brevigulata, is normally planted between November 1 and April 1 while the plants are still dormant, with the optimal planting time considered to be early to mid-March. The grass can be planted using the broom stick method: insert a broomstick 8 inches deep into the sand, and place 2 sprigs of grass in each hole. American beach grass is typically planted in staggered rows at 12-18 inch spacings, depending on the application. Fertilization should follow planting. There are numerous fact sheets with details on how to plant and fertilize American beach grass. American beach grass can be ordered from a number of New England nurseries but care should be taken to acquire either local genotypes of the species or the Cape variety, which is considered the best for planting along the Connecticut coastline. Check out a MA CZM fact sheet for more information on planting American beach grass. A good resource regarding plants is the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Cape May Plant Materials Center.
Planting dune grass in Fenwick. Photo: Nancy Balcom