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Individual study: Effect of rhizome planting treatment on growth of marram grasss Ammophila arenaria transplants at coastal dune sites in Aberdeenshire, East Lothian and Sutherland, eastern Scotland

Published source details

Hobbs R.J., Gimingham C.H. & Band W.T. (1983) The effects of planting technique on the growth of Ammophila arenaria (L.) Link and Lymus arenarius (L.) Hochst. Journal of Applied Ecology, 20, 659-672


Planting of vegetative parts of dune grasses has been practiced for many years to promote coastal reclamation, sand stabilization and dune formation. In this study, a series of experiments were conducted to test the effects of different planting factors on growth of rhizomes of the coastal dune grasses, marram grass Ammophila arenaria and lyme grass Lymus arenarius. The experiment reported here describes results of an experiment looking at the effect of rhizome planting orientation on the growth of marram transplants.

Study sites: Three dune sites in eastern Scotland were chosen for their differing climatic conditions and sand activity (Clachtoll, Sutherland, a moist site of moderate sand activity; Foveran, Aberdeenshire, a moist site of high sand activity; and Gullane, East Lothian, a dry site of low sand activity).

Planting treatments: Six marram planting treatments were repeated in 2 x 2 m plots at each site on five planting dates (December, March, May, July, September). Transplant material was taken from adjacent areas just before transplanting. The spacing between transplants was 40 cm. Treatments were:

Conventional - a single rhizome (with one or more leafy shoots) of 30 cm planted vertically with the growing point 10 cm below ground level;

Defoliated - as 'conventional' but above-ground foliage cut off;

Decapitated - as 'conventional' but growing point and foliage removed;

Protruding - as 'conventional' but growing point set 10 cm above ground level;

Shortened - as 'conventional' but a 10 cm length of rhizome instead of 30 cm;

Horizontal - a 30 cm rhizome horizontally planted in a 15 cm deep trench. The foliage was swept upwards to emerge at an angle from the sand, the growing point being at about 10 cm depth.


The plants were visually assessed (cover, height and rhizome development) up to one year after planting.

Effect of planting season: Winter plantings (December and March) were much more effective than summer ones (May, July, September), although at two sites early winter plantings suffered from European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus grazing or wind erosion. These results were as expected, following experience reported widely in other studies.

Effect of treatment: The horizontal treatments vegetated most rapidly and had most horizontal rhizome development. New rhizomes spread out at relatively small angles from the original and produced new vertical shoots along their length. Some rhizomes were 2.2 m in length after only 18 months. The 'shortened' treatment performed just as well as the 'conventional', new growth in both was confined to the upper part of the rhizome, indicating that a long rhizome segment is not necessary in the transplant material. The 'defoliated' treatment had marginally poorer development than the 'conventional' in summer plantings. The 'protruding' and 'decapitated' treatments developed poorly.

Conclusions: Winter plantings faired much better than summer ones. The shortened rhizome treatment performed just as well as the conventional treatment. Both 'protruding' and 'decapitated' treatments developed poorly, and are thus not recommended as ways to vegetate dunes.

Note: The compilation and addition of this summary was funded by the Journal of Applied Ecology (BES). If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper, this can be viewed at: