Photographer Jim Arnold has done such a splendid job of capturing the afternoon beauty of the Sea Oats in the sand dunes of North Litchfield Beach. This photo was taken by him on July 16, 2022. (To see more of his great work please visit "See Jim Run" Photography on Facebook)
Late summer is when this plant plant really holds court along the South Carolina coast. Many walk right buy the oats, but do not really know why they are so significant to the South Carolina coastal infrastructure. I thought I would fill you in a bit.
For much of the growing season the Sea Oat plant (Uniola paniculata) is a beautiful sea green in color. As summer begins to wind down into autumn, the seed heads begin to show their true splendor. The color turns from green to a deep golden brown. The monochromatic contrast against the sand is breathtaking if you happen to capture it on your camera. The oats are not only recognized for their late summer beauty, it is their very structure in the sand that makes conservationists dedicate hours to their preservation.
As a crucial component of the South Carolina hurricane defense strategy, the oats help deter damage from tropical storms. The plants are used in sand stabilization projects because their long root structure firmly holds loose sand. In fact, these oats play a critical role in hurricane damage mitigation throughout most of the southeastern united states, eastern Mexico and some Caribbean islands.
It is the large seed heads (oats) and tall leaves that trap windblown sand to help build and protect dunes. Sand dune growth and protection is another chapter I will write about at another time, but suffice it to say, Myrtle Beach takes its dunes pretty seriously. Don't be surprised if a local starts yelling at you if you are caught picking the oats. They are as precious as gold for the Hammock Coast landscape.
Picking or disturbing sea oats is punishable by fines in SC.
Sea Oats are protected by law in South Carolina.
To learn more click the link below.
SC Code § 16-11-590 (2013)
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