Alkali Heath Frankenia salina Alkali heath is a low, bushy plant with very small purple/pink, 5-petaled flowers from May to October. Alkali heath plants excrete the salt from the water they take in through special pores in their leaves. The sun evaporates any water and leaves tiny salt crystals covering the leaves. The nectar is a favorite food of the Pygmy blue butterfly (Brephidium exilis), a shoreline native and the smallest butterfly in North America.
Height: Up to 1 foot
Habitat: drier edges of lowland marsh
Black mustard is an invasive species from Europe that was brought here as a cover crop for fields and is now found all over the United States. It grows from April to July along the sides of trails and is a host plant for the Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris rapae), another invasive species from Europe. All parts of the plant are edible and have a spicy flavor.
Height: 2 to 8 feet
Habitat: High marsh zone
Cordgrass Spartina foliosa
(Invasive: Spartina alterniflora) This tall, thin grass produces energy for herbivores and provides shelter for many animals, including the endangered Salt Marsh harvest mouse and Ridgway's Rail. It grows by spreading runners from the base of each plant. Our native S. foliosa is being replanted along the shoreline after it was outcompeted by the eastern S. alterniflora, introduced here in the 1960s. Cordgrass can survive 21 hours of continual salt water submergence! Like the alkali heath, these plants also exude salt crystals to survive in this salty habitat.
Height: 3 to 4 feet
Habitat: Low salt marsh
Coyote Brush Baccharis pilularis
Coyote brush (also known as coyote bush) is an evergreen, woody shrub that grows taller than most other plants on the shoreline. A dioecious plant (as in each plant is either male or female), it is named for the flowers and seeds of the female plant, which make the plant look like a coyote "brushed" against it. Coyote brush can be found in woodland and chaparral habitats throughout coastal and northern parts of the state and is an important source of shelter for many animals.
Height: Up to 12 feet
Habitat: Upland marsh
Marsh Gum Plant Grindelia stricta var. angustifolia
Marsh gum plant is one of the few plants on the shoreline with large flowers. It is a tall plant with erect many-branching stems, topped by resinous white buds that exude a milky latex. From June to September the buds open into daisy-like yellow flowers about 3" in diameter - look for pollinators on them! The leaves are long, green, fleshy, and often veined with red. Native Americans who lived in the Bay area would boil the flower heads and leaves to make a mixture that was applied to poison oak rashes, boils, burns and sores, and was very effective. Height: 2 to 8 feet
Habitat: High marsh zone
Pickleweed Sarcocornia pacifica (perennial)
Salicornia europaea (annual) Pickleweed is the most common plant in the Hayward Shoreline salt marsh. It provides shelter and habitat for crabs, snails, insects, spiders, birds, and Salt Marsh harvest mice. It grows in salt or brackish water and can live submerged up to half of the time. These plants store salt in the tips of its stems, which become red and fall off in the winter. It flowers starting in August, turns red in October, turns brown in the winter, and green again in the spring.
Height: up to 1.5 feet
Habitat: upper mud flat