Native dune vegetation traps and stabilizes sand on the dune, creating a robust dune environment which is taller and wider, thereby providing increased protection against storms and related erosion.
Most native dune plants have extensive root systems which, when mature, act as a binder to hold the dune system together against the forces of erosion. Native dune plants are extremely salt-tolerant and can withstand periodic flooding by tidal water.
Avoid non-native vegetation
The establishment of non-native dune vegetation, such as lawn grass and typical landscape trees and shrubs, should be minimized within the dune because these plants do not have the vibrant root systems and salt tolerance necessary to create a healthy dune environment with maximum benefit.
Consider site conditions when using Christmas trees
Care should also be taken when considering using discarded Christmas trees as an approach to erosion control in dunes. With this approach, location is a key consideration as there are places where Christmas trees will likely be beneficial, and others where they may detrimental. Favorable conditions would include locations
- with enough available sand to trap;
- with open space between the vegetated dune edge and highest tides;
- with plenty of space between the Christmas trees so as to not “carpet” the dune and prohibit growth of American beach grass.
- in some dune scarps where the beach grass would have trouble growing until enough sand builds up to fill in the scarp.
Manage for endangered species
In some cases on beaches and dunes, actions you might take could impact threatened or endangered species such as piping plovers. You are likely aware if these species are present, and consultation with state and federal wildlife agencies will be needed before action can be taken.
Plant native dune species
Dune planting typically uses species of vegetation that are native to the coastal sand dune system. In Maine, this includes American beach grass (Ammophila breviligulata), which is the dominant dune species. Other common species include:
Coastal panicgrass (Panicum amarum)
Seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens)
Beach pea(Lathyrus japonicus)
Northern bayberry (Morella pensylvanica)
Special considerations for rugosa or beach rose
Rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa), also known as beach or Japanese rose, is native to Asia and was introduced to the United States as a garden and landscape ornamental around 1845. It soon escaped from cultivation and naturalized to the New England coast, where it is now a characteristic feature of seaside Maine. Its ability to spread rapidly and shade out native plants has earned Rosa rugosa an invasive designation in some states, and it is not recommended as a species to introduce to a dune system. For dunes where Rosa rugosa is already present, steps should be taken to prevent it from spreading, such as pulling up, weed whacking, mowing, and cutting back new growth.
Planting American beach grass
American beach grass is normally planted in late winter while the plants are still dormant. The grass can be planted using the broom stick method: insert a broomstick 8 inches deep into the sand, and place 2 sprigs of grass in each hole. American beach grass is typically planted in staggered rows at 12-18 inch spacings, depending on the application. The plants can be fertilized easily with dried seaweed from the nearby beach.
American beach grass can be ordered from one of the following locations:
- Pierson Nurseries, Biddeford, ME
- Cape Coastal Nursery, MA
- Great Meadows Nursery, MA
- Quansett Nurseries, Inc., MA
- Church’s Beachgrass & Nursery, Cape May, NJ
- Octoraro Native Plant Nursery, PA
- Cape Farms, Inc., DE
Phragmites australis, also known as common reed, is considered an invasive plant by the State of Maine and should not be planted or allowed to spread.
A good resource regarding plants is the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Cape May Plant Materials Center which maintain numerous resources for information on Coastal and Shoreline Restoration and Protection.
Follow the steps below to gain the environmental and regulatory information needed for decision making. The steps are listed in general order although some steps may be conducted concurrently.
1) Contact local, state and/or federal regulatory officials for advice on applicable regulations before proceeding with a dune planting project.
2) Obtain an environmental assessment from a certified engineer or other qualified professional with expertise in coastal landscapes. In most cases local, state, and/or federal regulators can help direct you to the best professional discipline to assist with your specific project. Sometimes it is helpful to have the consultant completing the environmental assessment and the construction contractor present at regulatory consultation meetings.
3) Evaluate your risk. Check your insurance coverage to make sure you have adequate liability coverage related to loss due to shoreline erosion, as well as flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.
4) If a planting plan involves work below or within 75 feet of Highest Annual Tide (HAT) or within a mapped sand dune system, develop a site stabilization plan. The plan does not need to be prepared by a professional in all cases; however, a good, clear plan can improve the efficiency and timeliness of any permitting that may be required. Good plans also will be beneficial to the construction contractor and can help avoid costly mistakes during the construction process.
5) Be Neighborly. If the plan involves work at or near a property boundary, or vegetation may affect an abutter’s “viewshed,” consider sharing the plan with the abutter(s) to make sure they fully understand the work to be performed and the potential impact to their property. This consultation is a courtesy at this stage, and not a regulatory mandate; however, obtaining “buy in” from abutter(s) can potentially avoid neighbor disputes that may lead to costly permitting and/or construction delays.
6) Need a local permit? Share plans with local code enforcement in order to determine what, if any, town ordinances may need to be followed to complete the work. Local shoreland zoning requirements may apply.
7) Need a state permit? If the plan involves alterations within 75 feet of highest annual tide (HAT), within or adjacent to another protected natural resource as defined by the Maine Natural Resources Protection Act such as a sand dune, or within a development permitted by the Site Location of Development Act, a state permit will likely be required. When possible, plan to meet standards of a permit-by-rule to simplify the state regulatory review process; otherwise an individual permit may be required. Alterations to a development or a lot within a development permitted under the Site Location of Development Act may require the revision or amendment of the development’s permit.
8) Need a federal permit? If the plan involves work below the highest annual tide (HAT) and/or in a freshwater wetland or habitat for endangered or threatened species, a federal permit(s) under the Federal Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act may be required. Share the plan with all applicable federal authorities in order to determine what permits may be necessary.
9) Hire qualified contractors who are experienced with the best practices associated with construction in or adjacent to natural resources.