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The Natural Communities of Virginia
Classification of Ecological Community Groups

Second Approximation (Version 2.7)
Information current as of February, 2016

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Salt Scrub

This group is characterized by halophytic, shrub-dominated vegetation. Salt scrub communities are wide-ranging along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. In Virginia, they are found in saline environments throughout the outer Coastal Plain and along lower reaches of major rivers on the inner Coastal Plain. Although salt scrub does occur in tidal habitats, it more commonly occupies higher, only irregularly flooded landscape positions in a mosaic with lower, diurnally flooded salt marsh. Salt scrub stands are strongly influenced by high winds and salt spray typical of their maritime environments. High-tide bush (Baccharis halimifolia) and marsh-elder (Iva frutescens) are the usual woody dominants. Saltgrass (Distichlis spicata), saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens), wax myrtle (Morella cerifera), and swamp rose-mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) are common associates.

References: Coulling (2002), Levy (1983), The Nature Conservancy (1997).

Click on the images below to open a larger image in a separate window.

This link opens a new browser window to display a larger photo Salt scrub composed largely of marsh-elder (Iva frutescens), high-tide bush (Baccharis halimifolia), and saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens). Near Wildcat Point on Assateague Island, Accomack County (Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge). Photo: Gary P. Fleming / © DCR Natural Heritage.
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High-tide bush (Baccharis halimifolia) at upper edge of salt marsh along King Creek near its confluence with the York River in York County. Photo: Gary P. Fleming / © DCR Natural Heritage.


Although the single community type in this group is based on only six plots (map), it has been qualitatively documented from numerous other sites on the outer Coastal Plain and clearly represents an easily recognizable and widespread association in the USNVC. The collection and analysis of additional data are unlikely to change the classification. Click on any highlighted CEGL code below to view the global USNVC description provided by NatureServe Explorer.

  • Baccharis halimifolia - Iva frutescens / Spartina patens Shrubland
    Salt Scrub
    USNVC: = CEGL003921
    Global/State Ranks: G5/S4

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