Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Marine Botany

Distichlis spicata


General Classification Information:

Distichlis spicata is the official Latin name for what is commonly referred to as saltgrass, spike grass or alkali grass [10, 12]. The name has Greek origins, with Distichlis from the Greek for "two-ranked" (referring to the forked arrangement of the plant's blades) and spicata referring to the spiked appearance of the plant's flowers.

According to the USDA, spicata remains today the single identified species in the genus Distichlis - numerous attempts have been made over the years to identify other species and sub-species, but all of these have been eventually rejected. Various authors will still refer to several of the more common proposed variations including Distichlis spicata spicata and Distichlis stricta quite frequently. On this site, the author, following what appears to be current scientific convention as indicated by the official USDA reports, treats Distichlis spicata as the only plant in the genus Distichlis.

Classification Hierarchy :

Distichlis spicata is currently classified as follows, reprinted from the USDA Plant Profile for Distichlis spicata [13]:

  •  Kingdom: Plantae (plants)
  •  Sub-kingdom: Tracheobionata (vascular plants)
  •  Superdivision: Spermatophyta (seed plants)
  •  Division: Magnoliophyta (flowering plants)
  •  Class: Liliopsida
  •  Subclass: Commelinidae
  •  Order: Cyperales
  •  Family: Poaceae (grasses)
  •  Genus: Distichlis
  •  Species: Distichlis spicata (L.) Greene

Last updated March 2003, Justin Kitzes.

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