Inland Salt Marshes
Inland salt marshes are extraordinarily rare communities known in Virginia only from a small mountain valley near Saltville, Smyth County. Similar but somewhat compositionally different communities are known from inland salt flats in New York and Michigan. The unique habitat at Saltville, consisting of seasonally flooded basin wetlands fed by saline springs, has been greatly reduced by industrial salt mining, hydrologic alterations, and grazing. However, small remnant marshes remain, supporting a very rare type of emergent vegetation composed largely of several remarkably disjunct halophytes. The salinity of water in these marshes varies over time from entirely fresh to polyhaline. Dominants are saltmarsh bulrush (Bolboschoenus robustus = Scirpus robustus), black-grass rush (Juncus gerardii) and formerly, on a few small exposed mud flats, dwarf spikerush (Eleocharis parvula). Also present are halberd-leaf orach (Atriplex prostrata), jointed glasswort (Salicornia virginica), foxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum ssp. jubatum), common cattail (Typha latifolia), common threesquare (Schoenoplectus pungens var. pungens), orange jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), swamp rose-mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), and several non-native weeds. It appears likely that the community type represented at Saltville is endemic to this site, which is currently used as a park.Reference: Ogle (1981).
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Inland salt marsh in a seasonally flooded basin fed by saline springs, in a valley of the Ridge and Valley region at Saltville, Smyth County. The dominant graminoid is black-grass rush (Juncus gerardii).Gary P. Fleming / © DCR Natural Heritage.
Large, deeply flooded patch of inland salt marsh almost entirely dominated by saltmarsh bulrush (Bolboschoenus robustus), one of several disjunct halophytes occurring in the Saltville marsh complex. Gary P. Fleming / © DCR Natural Heritage.
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