#20 - SEA OATS (Uniola paniculata)
This weeks plants in profile specimen does not grow here on Mound House, but without the sea oat ,there may have been no Estero Island at all . Barrier islands are formed as sandbars that build up over time and become stabilized by dune vegetation. As this vegetation holds the dunes together and prevent wind and water erosion, over time, the island expands and grows landward of the dunes. The sea oat is a beautiful plant that has a very high salt tolerance. As such, it is often the first line of defense against the erosion of storms . It is out there on the dunes where very few other species can grow. Its dense root systems hold back wave action and as the breakers roll in, the root mass coils upon itself forming a natural barricade that resembles a bundled roll of twine.
The “oats” or seeds of the sea oat are not harvested by humans, but do serve as a food source for birds and wildlife. It is unlawful to pick sea oats on public property.