Sample Landscape Plan for a Coastal Dune

Find a detailed landscape plan and profile drawing, along with recommended plants, tips, and additional information.

Beachgrass and other native plants can stabilize sandy soils and catch sand to help build dunes, providing storm-damage protection for your property. Planting a buffer between your house and the dune provides additional benefits—filtering sediments and pollutants, providing habitat and food for wildlife, and reducing lawn (which needs a lot of maintenance, fertilizer, and water in coastal areas).

Please note: Projects near salt marsh, beaches, dunes, and other protected areas may require a permit through the local Conservation Commission. See Coastal Landscaping in Massachusetts - Do You Need a Permit? for details.

Unless otherwise noted, all plants in the landscape plan, landscape profile, and plant key below are native to Massachusetts (see the definitions for native and non-native species at the bottom of this page). For more detailed descriptions of each plant, see Grasses/Perennials, Shrubs/Groundcovers/Vines, and Trees.  For more coastal landscape plans, see Coastal BankCoastal Bank with an Existing Seawall, and Buffer to Salt Marsh.

Landscape Plan for Coastal Dune

coastal dune landscape plan

This design incorporates a variety of native grasses, perennials, groundcovers, shrubs, and a few trees that are well suited for a coastal dune environment. The recommended plants are well adapted to sunny areas and are resistant to dry conditions, wind, salt spray, and sand-overtopping. Because coastal homeowners often want to maintain some lawn area, a lawn is included in this plan. However, lawn grasses provide very little storm-damage protection and wildlife benefit, and are therefore not recommended in dune environments and should be kept as small as possible.

Landscape Profile for Coastal Dune

coastal dune landscape profile

Plants in this design were selected for their ability to effectively cover, bind, and build sediments. For example, the spreading roots of beachgrass and dunegrass help stabilize sediments, while groundcover like beach pea and bearberry protect against wind erosion. Larger shrubs, such as red chokeberry and beach plum, spread to form a network of stabilizing roots. Many of these recommended plants also provide attractive spring or summer flowers and fruits and colorful fall foliage.

Plant Key

For a printer-friendly version of this plant key, see Coastal Dune Plan Plant Key (PDF, 689 KB).

coastal dune plant key

Definitions of Native and Non-Native Plant Species

native plant species is a plant that is considered indigenous and naturally occurring to the region since pre-Colonial times (before 1500) or arriving more recently without human intervention. For purposes of this website, a native plant is one that occurs naturally in eastern Massachusetts.

non-native plant species is a plant that is non-indigenous and not naturally occurring to the region. (For purposes of this website, the region is eastern Massachusetts with an emphasis on the coastal environments.) When non-native species enter into an ecosystem, they have the potential to disrupt the natural balance, reduce biodiversity, degrade habitats, alter native genetic diversity, and transmit exotic diseases to native species. However, not all non-native plants are invasive. Non-native plants that are not considered invasive are those that generally do not rapidly disperse, become established, or create self-sustaining or dominant populations that would be disruptive to the natural ecosystem. CZM recommends the use of natives wherever possible but has included certain non-native species in this website that have specific coastal landscaping advantages and no known environmental impacts. Be sure to check the Coastal Landscaping - Links to Additional Resources page for the most recent sources of invasive species information.

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