Marram is the most important plant on Sable Island.

Marram traps sand. Its roots, stems and leaves all have special adaptations. Its survival actually depends on the continuous buildup of sand.

Marram stabilizes dunes. As it grows upward through accumulating sand, its roots, rhizomes and old buried stems become the skeleton of the dune. Dune stabilized by Marram pave the way for new habitats and a diversity of plant and animal life.

Look for Marram’s special adaptations to shifting sand, salt spray, wind and dryness.

Marram is the most important plant on Sable Island.

Marram traps sand. Its roots, stems and leaves all have special adaptations. Its survival actually depends on the continuous buildup of sand.

Marram stabilizes dunes. As it grows upward through accumulating sand, its roots, rhizomes and old buried stems become the skeleton of the dune. Dune stabilized by Marram pave the way for new habitats and a diversity of plant and animal life.

Look for Marram’s special adaptations to shifting sand, salt spray, wind and dryness.


© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.

Marram grass

Marram is the most important plant on Sable Island.

Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.


Marram Cross-Section

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Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.


1. Roots form dense mats which trap sand and help retain soil moisture.

2. Rhizomes (underground stems) grow from the base of the plants, outward through the sand as much as 4 metres (12 feet) a year. New roots grow at intervals along the rhizomes.

3. Shoots of new plants grow upwards from the fast-spreading rhizomes.

4. Stems trap sand.

5. Nodes on the stem produce new roots as sand builds up. They replace the old and dying roots below.

6. Leaves are coarse and spiky but can still bend in the wind. Parallel ribs allow them to roll up tightly to slow down water loss in dry times.

7. Seeds may germinate on the harsh open beach, or be carried by waves and ocean currents.


1. Roots form dense mats which trap sand and help retain soil moisture.

2. Rhizomes (underground stems) grow from the base of the plants, outward through the sand as much as 4 metres (12 feet) a year. New roots grow at intervals along the rhizomes.

3. Shoots of new plants grow upwards from the fast-spreading rhizomes.

4. Stems trap sand.

5. Nodes on the stem produce new roots as sand builds up. They replace the old and dying roots below.

6. Leaves are coarse and spiky but can still bend in the wind. Parallel ribs allow them to roll up tightly to slow down water loss in dry times.

7. Seeds may germinate on the harsh open beach, or be carried by waves and ocean currents.


© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Describe how marram beach grass and its adaptations stabilize the Sable Island dunes.

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