Like most young people of my day, I did not pay much attention to the vegetation on the sand dunes of North Carolina's beaches. I was more interested in the water and the beach itself. The first time that I can really remember noticing sea oats is the summer of 1973. They were in a vase in the apartment of the young lady who was soon to become my wife.
Somehow ever since then, sea oats have had a special place in my memories. Now that we are permanent residents of North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks, each summer I watch for the sea oats to mature. I love it when they start to turn a golden color as the summer progresses.
Sea oats, marsh grass, and several less glamorous kinds of vegetation are very important here along our shores. They stabilize fragile areas and provide habitat for many of the area's creatures. I am proud that the marsh grass has filled in the spot beside our dock that was once bare. The water that comes off our driveway is filtered by a series of buried bags of Styrofoam pellets.
After getting through the filters, the water runs across a section of lawn grass before it gets to the marsh grass and then the gut that runs behind our house. The neighbor who lives to the north of me has been on a campaign for years to kill most of his marsh vegetation. The water which comes off his yard is often filled with silt. If you go to the linked post, there is a link to a picture of the area which he works to keep devoid of vegetation. The silt coming off his yard is a direct result of no vegetation. The water coming off our yard is as clear as a mountain trout stream.
Worrying about vegetation on sand dunes and the grasses along marshes was not something that was taught in the schools in the fifties and sixties when I was a youngster. I am hoping that it is a topic that the children of today hear about in school. Without the marshes and sand dunes our lives here along North Carolina's Crystal Coast our lives might be very different. We might have a hard time catching any fish or shrimp.
Without sea oats, marsh grasses, and our beloved oysters, we might not have the crystal clear waters that make the area deserving of the Crystal Coast name. I also would not be able to paddle out to the oyster rocks and float in three feet of water and enjoy the marvel of the oyster rocks that are underneath my kayak.
If we are smart we will applaud efforts to add more oysters beds to our waters and we will all be protective of new area of beach grasses which will stabilize the sand like these few new plants over at the Point in Emerald Isle.