via Carteret County Shore Protection Office

NC - Sea Oat 'Spikelets' Head North for Processing Ahead of Next Nourishment Project

EMERALD ISLE — Crews from Florida-based company EarthBalance harvested enough beach vegetation cuttings last week in Emerald Isle to grow 300,000 plants that will be planted on dunes created next year in a major beach nourishment project along the town’s strand.

Greg Rudolph, manager of the Carteret County Shore Protection Office, which is responsible for nourishment projects, said Thursday the unusual harvest went well.

“They knocked it out in just a couple of days,” Mr. Rudolph said. “They got 500 pounds of (sea oats and bitter panicum) spikelets and if 10 percent of them are productive and generate good seeds, that should be enough.”

The spikelets will go north to a Massachusetts company which will extract the seeds and ship them south to an EarthBalance greenhouse in Florida to grow into tiny plants that will be planted on the dunes in the spring.

The planting will happen after completion of the planned $31.6 million nourishment project that will begin in the winter and cover central Emerald Isle, eastern Emerald Isle and extreme western Emerald Isle beaches with about 2 million cubic yards of sand dredged from the ocean off Atlantic Beach.

“It’s pretty cool,” Mr. Rudolph said. “It’s like, full-circle.”

The spikelets were taken from plants that have matured since they were planted after a nourishment project in 2019. Plants were also put in after a 2020 nourishment project, but those were not yet mature enough for spikelets to be harvested, Mr. Rudolph said.

The plants installed next year, like those installed in years past, will help hold new dunes in place, which is the reason it’s illegal and punishable by a fine to remove sea oats from beaches in North Carolina and other coastal states.

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