Eastern Grasswort

Lilaeopsis chinensis (L.) Kuntze

Lileaopsis chinensis
Troy Weldy

Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
Apiaceae (Carrot Family)
State Protection
Listed as Threatened by New York State: likely to become Endangered in the foreseeable future. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Imperiled in New York - Very vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to rarity or other factors; typically 6 to 20 populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

Only the leaves and flower stalks of this small plant are visible since the stems grow underground. You have to get down and muddy to see the tiny flowers. The plants usually appear in one big mass and it's impossible to tell one plant from the other.

State Ranking Justification

This plant is restricted to a narrow habitat (brackish tidal mudflats) that are often impacted by invasive species, run-off, dredging, or other impacts that result in limited high quality habitats. There are nine known populations and at least an additional 15 historical locations.

Short-term Trends

The populations seem to be stable at the present time.

Long-term Trends

This plant has probably never had more than 50 occurrences in the state but it has declined somewhat from its previous numbers.

Conservation and Management


These plants may be subject to dredging and filling of their habitat. The areas where they grow may be subject to changes in salinity caused by changes in runoff from uplands. Siltation has been observed at some locations as a potential threat. Canada geese were also observed favoring these plants at one population. These geese nipped the plants to ground level and severely reduced the number of visible plants. The long-term impact of this herbivory is not known. Phragmites has likely reduced the number of plants at a few sites.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Upland buffer zones should be established to protect the watershed supporting the wetlands where these plants grow.

Research Needs

There are no research needs at this time.



A plant of brackish marshes, brackish intertidal mudflats, peaty borders of salt marshes, rocky shores adjacent to salt and brackish marshes, and other muddy locations with brackish or salt water influences (New York Natural Heritage Program 2004). Brackish marshes and tidal shores along the coastal plain (Crow and Helquist 2000). Tidal muds and brackish marshes (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). In the mud of brackish marshes and tidal shores along the coast (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Brackish intertidal mudflats (guide)
    A sparsely vegetated community, characterized by low-growing, rosette-leaved aquatics. The community occurs on exposed intertidal mudflats where water salinity ranges from 0.5 to 18.0 ppt. This community is best developed where mudflats are nearly level so that broad expanses are exposed at low tide. The rosette-leaved aquatics are completely submerged at high tide, and they are usually coated with mud.
  • Brackish intertidal shore
    A community of the intertidal gravelly or rocky shores of brackish tidal rivers and creeks where water salinity ranges from 0.5 to 18.0 ppt.
  • Brackish tidal marsh (guide)
    A marsh community that occurs where water salinity ranges from 0.5 to 18.0 ppt, and water is less than 2 m (6 ft) deep at high tide. The vegetation in a brackish tidal marsh is dense and dominated by tall grass-like plants.
  • Low salt marsh (guide)
    A coastal marsh community that occurs in sheltered areas of the seacoast, in a zone extending from mean high tide down to mean sea level or to about 2 m (6 ft) below mean high tide. It is regularly flooded by semidiurnal tides. The mean tidal range of low salt marshes on Long Island is about 80 cm, and they often form in basins with a depth of 1.6 m or greater.
  • Sea level fen (guide)
    A wetland that occurs at the upper edge of salt marshes but is fed primarily by acidic groundwater seeping out along the upland edge. This fresh water sometimes mixes with salt or brackish water during unusually high tides. There is a high abundance of sedges that decompose slowly and create a deep substrate of peat. This peat is underlain by deep sand or gravel. These fens usually have a high diversity of herbs but may also have scattered trees and shrubs.

Associated Species

  • Aster tenuifolius
  • Limosella australis (Atlantic mudwort)
  • Phragmites australis (old world reed grass, old world phragmites)
  • Sagittaria subulata (awl-leaved arrowhead)
  • Schoenoplectus americanus (chair-maker's bulrush)
  • Spartina alterniflora (smooth cord grass)
  • Spartina cynosuroides (big cord grass)
  • Spartina patens (salt-meadow cord grass)


New York State Distribution

An aquatic plant of tidal mudflats, this plant is limited to brackish areas of the Hudson River and eastern Long Island.

Global Distribution

A species of tidal areas chiefly limited to the coastal plain and estuaries along the east coast from Nova Scotia south to Florida and Louisana.

Identification Comments

General Description

This is a very small mat-forming plant no higher than 6 cm above the mud. The numerous, arching, shiny-green leaves are narrow and strap-shaped and somewhat succulent with rounded tips. They stick out in all directions and if you look closely you can see they are divided into partitions. The arching flower stalks are not higher than the leaves and are topped by a crown of 4-9 short branches with tiny white flowers at the tip.

Identifying Characteristics

A plant of tidal areas with phyllodia (defined more or less as an expanded, bladeless petiole) 1-6 cm long and having (3)4-6 transverse septa. These phyllodia look like thin, tall, and somewhat succulent leaves with cross-partitions occurring up the stem. The flowering peduncles are about as long as the phyllodia with 4-9 flowers. The fruits are about 2 mm long with the thick lateral wings forming a corky margin.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

To properly identify this plant, one should have plants with either flowers or fruit.

Similar Species

As long as this plant is observed in fruit or flower, it is not likely to be confused. If you are trying to identify the plant vegetatively, it could be confused with a long list of small plants located on the tidal mudflats and within the brackish marshes.

Best Time to See

This plant begins to flower in late June with fruits persisting through October. Surveys should be conducted between July and October.

  • Vegetative
  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Eastern Grasswort vegetative, flowering, and fruiting in New York.

Eastern Grasswort Images


Eastern Grasswort
Lilaeopsis chinensis (L.) Kuntze

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
        • Order Apiales
          • Family Apiaceae (Carrot Family)

Additional Common Names

  • Lilaeopsis


  • Lilaeopsis lineata (Michx.) Greene

Comments on the Classification

The epithet chinensis is usually reserved for plants native to China, some of which have now become established within North America. The epithet chinensis is used here because Linnaeus (the botanist who first described this plant from material sent to him) mistakenly thought the specimen was collected in China (Fernald 1970). This may be the only plant native to North America and not found in China or the Orient with the epithet of chinensis.

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Other References

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Mitchell, Richard S. and Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. Contributions to a Flora of New York State. Checklist IV. Bulletin No. 490. New York State Museum. Albany, NY. 400 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/, Albany, New York


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: September 9, 2004

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Lilaeopsis chinensis. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/eastern-grasswort/. Accessed June 23, 2024.