You can’t approach a beach from Virginia to Texas without catching sight of some variation on this dire warning sign: Unlawful to Pick Sea Oats.
The reason is simple. Sea oats are the most durable and plentiful native plant in the region. The spreading root system catches wind blown sand and helps to build the dunes that protect our barrier islands.
When we bought our house on the lagoon last year, I was thrilled to find a stand of sea oats along the bulkhead, but I was also a little alarmed. Unlike my novel characters, I am terrified of breaking the law. Terrified of getting caught. Terrified of doing time.
If there had been stands of sea oats in the neighbors’ lawns, I wouldn’t have worried. But they’re only in my yard. I didn’t do it. I didn’t transplant or collect seeds or anything. They were already there. Yet as the owner, I am the guilty party. But what am I going to do? It is, after all, Unlawful to Pick Sea Oats.
Thanks to the Internet, I was able to relieve my conscience. Sea oats–uniola paniculata–can be purchased from nurseries. Though they grow wild on the dunes, there is a prescription for cultivation. In the winter, sea oats, like other ornamental landscape grasses, should be cut to the ground.
I know I’ll feel the need to post a guard at the end of the street so we won’t get caught with the trimmer roaring. And maybe pass out explanatory leaflets to all the neighbors so they won’t turn us in.
Happy Independence Day! And stay out of trouble with the law.