Is that spaghetti on the sand and in the water? Nope, it’s manatee grass

June 28, 2019
By Marcy Shortuse

■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
You might have seen some strange-looking clumps floating in the Gulf or lying forlornly on the beach recently … clumps that look more than a little bit like spaghetti. Unfortunately, nature doesn’t have its own pastamaker, but this marine grass is definitely a favorite food of our sea cows.
Manatee grass, commonly found in seagrass beds in warm, shallow waters like the Gulf of Mexico, might possibly have been washed in after the beach renourishment, but wind and waves can can break off the vegetation and bring it to shore on a regular basis.
The photo to the right was taken by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction manager. It is a good example of what the seagrass looks like.
This manatee grass, or Syringodium filiforme, is not a grass at all but rather a member of the monocot Manateegrass family, the Cymodoceaceae. There are large beds of this monocot throughout the Gulf. Manatee grass is one of seven seagrasses that grow in our waters, and it provides food and shelter to many species. Manatees, parrotfish, surgeonfish, sea urchins and pinfish all feed on this type of monocot.
The drier and more bleached the manatee grass becomes, the flatter it becomes, until it eventually looks like something akin to a straw wrapper.