Diversity in the tRNALEU1 intron of the chloroplast genome of Spartina was used to study hybridization of native California cordgrass, Spartina foliosa, with S. alterniflora, introduced to San Francisco Bay ≈ 25 years ago. We sequenced 544 bases of the tRNALEU1 intron and found three polymorphic sites, a pyrimidine transition at site 126 and transversions at sites 382 and 430. Spartina from outside of San Francisco Bay, where hybridization between these species is impossible, gave cpDNA genotypes of the parental species. S. foliosa had a single chloroplast haplotype, CCT, and this was unique to California cordgrass. S. alterniflora from the native range along the Atlantic coast of North America had three chloroplast haplotypes, CAT, TAA, and TAT. Hybrids were discriminated by random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) phenotypes developed in a previous study. We found one hybrid that contained a cpDNA haplotype unknown in either parental species (TCT). The most significant finding was that hybridization proceeds in both directions, assuming maternal inheritance of cpDNA; 26 of the 36 hybrid Spartina plants from San Francisco Bay contained the S. foliosa haplotype, nine contained haplotypes of the invading S. alterniflora, and one had the cpDNA of unknown origin. Furthermore, cpDNA of both parental species was distributed throughout the broad range of RAPD phenotypes, suggesting ongoing contributions to the hybrid swarm from both. The preponderance of S. foliosa cpDNA has entered the hybrid swarm indirectly, we propose, from F1s that backcross to S. foliosa. Flowering of the native precedes by several weeks that of the invading species, with little overlap between the two. Thus, F1 hybrids would be rare and sired by the last S. foliosa pollen upon the first S. alterniflora stigmas. The native species produces little pollen and this has low viability. An intermediate flowering time of hybrids as well as pollen that is more vigourous and abundant than that of the native species would predispose F1s to high fitness in a vast sea of native ovules. Thus, spread of hybrids to other S. foliosa marshes could be an even greater threat to the native species than introductions of alien S. alterniflora.