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Sandplain Grasslands

Sandplain grasslands are a globally rare natural community visually dominated by grasses, although forbs (non-woody flowering plants) and woody shrubs are also important components of the community. Sandplain grassland communities occur on flat outwash plains with dry, low-nutrient soils, generally near the ocean, where they are influenced by winds and storm blown salt spray. Dominant plants are little bluestem grass, Pennsylvania sedge and poverty grass (Danthonia spicata).  Shrubs, such as black huckleberry, bayberry and lowbush blueberry, often form large patches. As a group, goat’s rue, yellow wild indigo, butterfly weed and bird’s foot violet are good indicators of this natural community.  

Sandplain grasslands provide habitat for numerous rare species. The Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program lists 14 plants and 10 animal species on the Massachusetts Rare and Endangered Species list that are associated with this community. Major threats include non-native invasive species, and succession to woodlands due to lack of fire.

The main techniques for restoration and management of sandplain grasslands are mowing, brushcutting and prescribed fire.   

The above was derived from information provided by the Massachusetts’ Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP).  More detailed information can be found at the NHESP web site, http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/nhesp/nhesp.htm.