Contributor: Valerie Tollett

Vegetation at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is determined by its tolerance to salty conditions.  The southern marshes that are feed by Rattlesnake creek have the lowest salinity.  Species that thrive in this area are cattails, common reed grass and bullrush.  The northern marshes have the highest salinity.  The dominate species in this area is inland saltgrass, red saltwort, and sea blite.  The far north site of the Big Salt Marsh contains no vegetation most of the year due to salt flats.

            Most of the vegetation at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of halophytes.  Halophytes are plants the thrive when the water contains greater than 0.5% NaCl.  Living in this environment requires structural, phonological, physiological and biochemical mechanisms for salt resistance.  Very few families have been able to develop such resistance.

 Halophytes are often classified as excretives and succulents.  Excretives have glandular cells that are capable of secreting excess salts from the plant.  Succulents increase the water content in the cells by developing large vacuoles. 

            Excretive plants include cordgrasses (Spartina alterniflora, S. patens), alkali grass (Puccinellia phryganodes), and shoregrass (Monanthochloe littoralis).  Saltgrass (Distichlis stricta) is one of these halophytes that is found on Quivira NWR.  Succulent species are more wide spread on the refuge and consist of red saltwort (Salicornia rubra) and Sea blite (Suaeda calceoliformis).

            Halophytes can also be classified as obligate or facultative.  Obligate halophytes require some salt, and facultative halophytes can also live in freshwater environments.  Many of the species found at Quivira NWR are facultative halophytes.