Native Plants Program
Founded in 2000, CRCL’s Native Plants Program (NPP), formerly Habitat Restoration Program leads our efforts to restore Louisiana’s coastal habitats by engaging volunteers and stakeholders to be a part of the solution. Our partnerships and events facilitate environmental stewardship by Louisiana industries, land owners, business leaders, residents, and visitors.
The NPP provides valuable education experiences for its volunteers. Participants learn about our coastal land loss crisis, its main causes, and the various solutions being implemented across the entire Louisiana coast.
Since its inception, the NPP has engaged more than 14,500 volunteers and directly restored more than 4,500 acres of coastal wetlands in Louisiana.
Dune Grass Plantings
Our volunteers plant native dune grass on beaches in southwest Louisiana. These plants encourage sand dunes to form. The resulting dune habitat buffers the area from storm surge, protects inland communities, and provides critical wildlife habitat. CRCL typically holds annual beach dune grass plantings in the early or late summer.
Sand dunes are critical habitats for plants and animals, but they are rapidly eroding in many areas due to sea level rise, storms, and beach development. Sand dunes formed from vegetation act as strong barriers to storms and tides, but without this vegetation, the dunes lacs an anchor and will easily erode away. CRCL often plants a native dune grass called bitter panicum (Panicum amarum). Bitter panicum has a high salt tolerance, so it’s a great plant for sand dune/beach restoration. Dune grass acts like a net to catch blowing sand that slowly accretes to form dunes. The plants’ roots also hold sand in place, keeping it from washing away easily. These grasses also have rhizomes —underground stems that grow horizontally through the soil -- which anchor the plants and extend through the sand dunes, allowing new stems to “shoot out” across the dunes.
Marsh Grass Plantings
Our volunteers plant native marsh vegetation in fresh to brackish marsh areas that are being restored. This helps create dense root systems that stabilize the soil, capture sediment, and minimize storm surge. CRCL's marsh grass plantings primarily occur in the late spring and early fall each year.
In addition to stabilizing coastal soils and reducing land loss, planting marsh grass also provides important fish and wildlife habitat. Under natural conditions in marshes, vigorous stands of marsh grass will absorb wave energy and screen suspended solids from intertidal waters. We often plant smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), marshhay cordgrass (Spartina patens), and California bulrush (Schoenoplectus californicus). Smooth cordgrass, the dominant emergent grass species found growing along tidal salt marshes of the Gulf Coast, is used extensively for erosion control. The return of the natural hydrology of the area will also help improve the reproduction and recruitment of native grasses planted.
Our volunteers plant trees in coastal forests (such as cypress-tupelo swamp) to help reduce effects of storm surge and flooding, as well as improve water quality and create habitat for fish and wildlife. Coastal forests across Louisiana’s coast offer protection from hurricanes and safeguard our communities. Tree plantings typically occur in the late fall and winter each year.
CRCL often plants bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), red swamp maple (Acer rubrum), and water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica) for coastal forest restoration projects. The native trees that our volunteers plant will grow dense root systems that help hold the sediment in place, encourage land growth, and reduce the impacts of subsidence. Restoring these swamp habitats helps to buffer our levees from storm surge energy and protect the surrounding communities. The return of the area’s natural hydrology through larger restoration efforts will in turn improve the reproduction and recruitment of the native trees we plant.
CRCL's Restoration Work Across the State
Visit each restoration project we've completed since our Native Plants Program first began over 15 years ago. From restoring beaches in Cameron Parish to planting marsh grass in Venice, our volunteers have travelled the state to help restore Louisiana's coast. Click below to learn more!