Estuary Explorers Quiz – Question #5

Native Plant Propagation

True or False?  Salt marsh plants require salt water in order to survive.

False – Salt marsh plants are adapted to tolerate salt water, but they grow quite well with exposure to fresh water. Each plant species has a certain adaptation that allows it to avoid impacts of salt to its tissues. Some secrete salt through their stomata, while others will sequester salt to the tips of their stems and shed those parts to release salts. Salt marsh plants have adapted to grow relatively slow and get out-competed in fresh water marshes.

Adaptation examples:

  • Pickleweed: a salt marsh plant living in the mid-marsh plane adapts to the salt conditions in two ways; by filtering out salt from its roots through cell membranes and by pumping excess salts into storage cells called vacuoles at the tips of the plant. These vacuoles eventually become full with salts and cells begin to breakdown, turn red and fall off from the tips of the plant. During fall months if you look across a salt marsh you will see a vibrant field of red-tipped pickleweed plants.
  • Salt grass: a salt marsh plant found in the mid-marsh adapts to salt water conditions by up-taking salt water into roots and pumping it out through small pores in the leaves. During this excretion process the sun evaporates the water and the salt crystals leave a whitish color on the salt grass leaf blades.