You may have seen seagrass rugs in stores or in the homes of friends who enjoy the look of natural decor. These rugs are made from the fibers of a group of marine plants known as seagrasses that possess desirable qualities for flooring, furniture and other decorative items.
An Introduction to Seagrass
“Seagrass” is a general term used to describe a family of plants known as angiosperms that thrive in shallow coastal waters. In addition to grass-like stems, seagrass also has roots and produces flowers as part of its reproductive cycle. These characteristics make it more similar to land grass than seaweed.
All seagrasses require adequate sunlight to grow and reproduce, which is why they’re found only in shallow ocean waters along the coastlines. These plants also need water that is the correct temperature and salinity. Strong currents can damage the grass, so it tends to grow in calmer areas. However, the fibers of the plants are known for being strong and thick and are smooth to the touch thanks to a natural waxy coating.
What is Seagrass Used For?
In the wild, seagrass performs many vital environmental functions. It serves as a source of food for many marine animals during its growth cycle as well as after it dies and begins to decompose. In fact, its rich nutrient content made it the fertilizer of choice for some coastal communities in the past.
The long stems of seagrass provide shelter for ocean wildlife as well as nursery habitats for commercial fisheries. These natural ecosystems are safe places for fish and other saltwater creatures to raise young. Seagrass also serves to stabilize the soil of the ocean floor and settles sediment that gets stirred up when waters become choppy.
During World War I, some countries relied on seagrass as a stuffing for mattresses used by soldiers. Today, seagrass is prized for its sustainability, strength and appearance and is used in a variety of ornamental home items, including rugs, furniture, placemats and baskets.
Seagrass in Rugs
Seagrass rugs feature diverse patterns that are created by weaving the fibers in different ways. They may have a simple traditional “basket weave” look or sport flowers, leaves and other decorative elements. The finished product has a smooth surface that is non-porous and known for its durability. Seagrass rugs are often highly textured, a feature that is offset by a border of canvas, nylon or bamboo. This border serves to keep the fibers from unraveling and also balances the look of the rug with a matching or contrasting shade.
The natural color of seagrass comes through when rugs are made from the fibers. The rugs start out with a light sheen and a tinge of green, and the shade mellows naturally over time to a light tan or brown. Although these rugs are generally resistant to damage, they can develop mold or mildew if kept in a damp environment, so it’s important to maintain a balanced humidity level in your home if you decorate with seagrass.
Benefits of Seagrass Flooring
Seagrass is a sturdy, sustainable choice for flooring and other home decor. It’s non-toxic, anti-static and resists both damage and wear. Dirt doesn’t stick to the surface, and the seagrass fibers won’t take up spilled liquids. These properties make seagrass rugs easy to clean. All you have to do is shake them out, sweep them or lightly vacuum them when performing other household chores. Should any liquid be spilled, simply blot it up with a cloth or clean the area with water and mild soap.
If you or a loved one suffers from allergies or chemical sensitivities, seagrass is a better choice than commercially produced fabric rugs. Many fabric items are dyed or treated with chemicals that “off-gas” over time, resulting in continued exposure. Seagrass, on the other hand, is never dyed and doesn’t require chemicals in order to maintain its strength and appearance over time.
Making seagrass a part of your decor brings a beautiful organic look to your home. These durable, attractive rugs add a touch of the ocean to any room and can be enjoyed for many years without the high maintenance of other types of flooring.