Coastal dunes are a landscape of unconsolidated sand, blown from barrier beaches and the seaward shore. If the salt marsh is a landscape of water and the sand plain is a landscape of fire then the coastal dunes are a landscape of wind. The sand is held in place by an extensive carpet of American beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata). Ammophila is uniquely adapted to colonize and stabilize the shifting sands of the dunes by being able to send chutes upwards of six feet through blowing sands. Beach heather (Hudsonia species) and bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva ursi) are sub-shrubs that grow in the stable and sheltered dunes of the North Atlantic coast.
As stabilization of the dune proceeds, shrubs, vines and trees grow in succession. Plants include: bayberry, rose and juniper, poison ivy, grape and green brier. Life is tenuous in the coastal dunes with wind and waves able to blow out and wash away plants from the shifting sands with every storm. Over the years I have documented the additive and subtractive process of the coastline and the coastal dunes particularly evident in the parabolic dune formations at the tip of Cape Cod and the restorative dune work within the Cape Cod National Seashore.