Marine grasses (seagrass and marsh grass) differ from marine algae in that they have roots and leaves and produce flowers and seeds – they are in fact flowering plants, just like the roses and daisies in your garden. Marine grasses provide valuable habitats to many invertebrates like clams, crabs, and oysters as well as many fish species and are commonly visited by migrating birds that eat the animals that live here. Anchored by their strong root systems, marsh grasses in wetlands and seagrasses in shallow water along shorelines also provide buffers against storms such as hurricanes.

Seagrasses in the Gulf of Mexico live above and under the water surface in coastal areas, lagoons, and bays. In the Gulf of Mexico, there are several species[1] of seagrasses, including:

  • Paddle grass, Halophila decipiens
  • Star grass, Halophila engelmannii
  • Turtle grass, Thalassia testudinum
  • Shoal grass, Halodule wrightii
  • Manatee grass, Syringodium filiforme
  • Wigeon grass, Ruppia maritima

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Halodule Seagrass

The habitats formed by seagrasses are home to many different creatures that make it a complex ecosystem. Some invertebrates that inhabit seagrass beds include the queen conch, spiny lobsters, shrimps, and scallops. Oxygen produced by the photosynthetic cycle of the plants makes this habitat especially valuable to the marine animals that “breathe” the oxygen.

In the Louisiana Wetlands, many species of marsh grasses can be found. In the salt marshes, Oyster Grass is prevalent; it can tolerate the high salinity of the saltwater in the marsh. Wire Grass is common in the brackish marshes and provides a home for many invertebrates including the blue crab, which is feasted upon by migratory birds. Adjacent freshwater marshes also support many types of grasses, including bullwhip, bulltongue, wild rice, duckweed, cutgrass, cattails, irises, and water lilies.[2]

[1] Seagrass Habitat in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

[2] Types of Wetlands