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Forest Vines to Snow Tussocks: The Story of New Zealand Plants

Salt Marshes and Meadows

page 159

Salt Marshes and Meadows125

On sheltered low-lying coasts in muddy estuaries and lagoons, salt marshes frequently or occasionally flooded by tides, grade landwards into salt meadows rarely reached by the sea. Nearest the sea, a zone that is under water for part of each day during spring tides has a close cover of the glasswort, Sarcocornia quinqueflora. Further from the sea and at a slightly higher elevation reached only by the highest spring tides, the next zone is dominated by taller rush-like plants including the true rush Juncus maritimus and the jointed rush Leptocarpus similis. Often backing this zone is a fringe of the small-leaved twiggy shrub Plagianthus divaricatus, a strange relative of the much larger ribbonwood (P. regius) found in inland forests. Furthest from the sea the salt meadow is rarely reached by the tide, but owes its moderate saltiness principally to salt-laden gales. It has a turf of low-growing, mainly succulent herbs including Apium prostratum, Selliera radicans with its lobelia-like flowers, Samolus repens and Leptinella (Cotula) dioica. Triglochin striatum and Lilaeopsis spp. are also common here.