Island Beach State Park contains 10 miles of coastal dunes that have remained virtually untouched since Henry Hudson first described New Jersey’s coast in 1609. This extensive dune system is a valued treasure that not only provides a natural barrier to coastal storms, but also provides critical habitat to a variety of plants and animals.
American beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata) is the most common plant species found on primary dunes along much of the Atlantic coast. It thrives in the harsh beach environment with few nutrients, almost no water, extreme temperature changes, and blowing sand. Beachgrass’s specialized adaptations, including thick, brittle, shiny leaves that prevent water loss and reflect sunlight, make it possible to survive in such conditions. Its underground stems, called rhizomes, send shoots upwards and roots downward to depths of 20 feet, creating a dense web-like mat. This mat stabilizes the dune by anchoring the beachgrass and the surrounding shifting sand.
Despite its hardiness, beachgrass cannot survive being trampled by vehicle or man. The brittle leaves snap easily when walked or driven upon. The passage of one vehicle or a few footsteps can kill the grass, expose the dune and make it susceptible to erosion or overwashes. The staff at IBSP, along with many generous volunteers, are committed to preserving and protecting the extensive dune system and we need your help. Please keep off the dunes. Marked paths are provided throughout the park. Thank you!