Seashore Paspalum: The Turfgrass of the 21st Century

Seashore paspalum may be the next environmental breakthrough in the American golf industry. This saltwater-tolerant grass has already been used on courses in South Africa, Australia, Hawaii and South America. Due to increasing environmental concerns, seashore paspalum is becoming more popular in the continental U.S.

Seashore paspalum is a warm-season turfgrass native to South Africa and possibly South America. Its tolerance to saltwater sets it apart from other grasses. According to George Ralish, assistant superintendent of Gulf Stream Golf Club, seashore paspalum, also known as siltgrass, can be watered with saltwater when managed properly. He said, “If golf courses could convert to Paspalum vaginatum, all the complaints about water usage would be silenced.”

Many courses throughout the world already use seawater for irrigation. In addition, studies indicate the use of seawater has the potential to act as a selected herbicide since some weeds and other species of grass are not as tolerant.

Siltgrass is a dark-green, dense grass that, once established, requires minimal weeding and fertilizer. The grass is drought-tolerant if deep roots are allowed to develop, and it may be submerged in water. It has also been found to survive in bog-like conditions. Researchers R.R. Duncan and R.N. Carrow at the University of Georgia have found that seashore paspalum can be maintained at 50% of the overhead cost of hybrid bermudagrass.

Unlike bermudagrass, siltgrass accepts prolonged use of recycled water – another reason it has been called the “grass of the future.” Seashore paspalum produces a dense turf and tolerates traffic stress similar to bermudagrass. One area of concern is the quality of the putting greens. Researchers seem confident, however, that this can be mitigated. Richard L. Duble of Texas A&M found that the seashore paspalum greens in Argentina, which are mowed as low as 1/8 inch, were comparable to dwarf bermudagrass.