Marsh and Wetland Plants

Marsh and Wetland Plants

In general, the plants that “belong” near the lagoon (in the wetlands) are low-growing and salt-tolerant, with floppy stems (not erect) and having special ways of growing in salty soil and of ridding themselves of excess salt.

The following plants are native except where indicated.



Pickleweed Plant

Common Name: Pickleweed

Scientific Name: Sarcocornia pacifica

Size/Location: Usually less than a foot and a half tall; spreading

Comments: S. pacifica is a perennial but loses its fleshiness as the tips accumulate excess salt, turn red, and drop off when the plants turns brown and goes dormant in the winter.



Alkali Heath


Alkali HeathCommon Name: Alkali Heath

Scientific Name: Frankenia salina

Size/Location: Low-growing; abundant in coastal salt marshes.

Comments: A bushy perennial with small leaves and small but conspicuous fleshy, tubular pink flowers. It has a woody base and a mat-like appearance.



Common Name: Saltgrass

Scientific Name: Distichlis spicata

Size/Location: Throughout; sprawling short stems with wiry stiff spikes for leaves; about 3-4 in  tall

Comments: Very common on or near the path (the upper marsh and not right in the water) because it doesn’t like to be wet too much (although it must have salty soil or water).



Alkali Weed

Alakali Weed

Common Name: Alakali Weed

Scientific Name:Cressa truxillensis

Size/Location: Small and low-growing in saline and alkaline soils.

Comments: Leaves and stems are gray-green, wooly and soft; hard to see. The white flowers are in the morning-glory family. Can be invasive.




Salty Susan

Salty Susan

Common Name: Salty Susan

Scientific Name:Jaumea carnosa

Size/Location: Low (less than 6"), spreading perennial, in wet areas.

Comments: Shiny, fleshy leaves on very long stems; found on lagoon-side of the trail. It belongs to the sunflower family but has small inconspicuous flowers. Jaumea is only found in saline habitats.




Cat Tails

Common Name: Cat-tail

Scientific Name:Typha spp.

Size/Location: Fresh water edges; tall with narrow grass-like leaves

Comments: Characteristic red-brown cigar-shaped clumps (of female flowers) in late summer. Should not be found in a saltwater lagoon, but present at Batiquitos Lagoon where fresh water comes in. They survive in the lagoon because they can tolerate a little bit of salt and are usually found near the edge with their roots in water but stems and leaves dry.


California Bulrush

California Bulrush

Common Name: California Bulrush

Scientific Name:Scirpus californicus

Size/Location: Brackish water edges; grows up to 13 feet. Common in coastal marshes.

Comments:. Stems more three-sided than cylindrical. May be confused with cat-tails. Seeds, roots and stems important food for mammals and birds. Do not tolerate seasonal flooding.



Spiny Rush

Spiny RushCommon Name: Spiny Rush

Scientific Name:Juncus acutus

Size/Location:Very stiff, sharp 3-5′ stems from base; usually between trail and water, but above water level

Comments: Statewide endangered plant because that kind of habitat is so often destroyed.



Fat Hen

Fat HenCommon Name: Fat Hen

Scientific Name:Atriplex triangularis

Size/Location:With other marsh plants but taller (up to 3 feet)

Comments: Intolerant of prolonged flooding. The leaves are distinctly triangular and pointed and turn red in the late summer and fall. They are thin but feel mealy, not smooth. Non-native.


Australian Saltbush

Australian SaltbushCommon Name: Australian saltbush

Scientific Name:Atriplex semibaccata

Size/Location:Forms low mats near (even on) the trail

Comments:Toothed, gray-green, mealy-feeling leaves and likes alkaline soils. Prostrate (low). Non-native; invasive.


Common Tule

(not pictured)


Common Name: Common Tule

Scientific Name:Scirpus acutus

Size/Location:Similar to California bulrush

Comments:Round stiff stems.


Bulrush or Scirpus

(not pictured)


Common Name: Bulrush or Scirpus

Scientific Name:Scirpus microcarpus

Size/Location:2-5 feet; wet parts of trail (freshwater)

Comments:Round stem with flat "spikelets" and "flower".



(not pictured)


Common Name: Cordgrass

Scientific Name:Spartina foliosa

Size/Location:In water most of the time (not close to trail)

Comments:Recently planted far out on mudflats:  hoped to thrive and provide home for Clapper Rails.