Turtle grass beds, a valuable natural resource, are diminishing throughout the tropics because of damage from dredging, boats, and other factors. The toxicity of chemical dispersants and crude oil to turtle grass was determined in the laboratory to assess the potential for damage from spills occurring in the field. Studies of water-soluble fractions (WSF) of crude oil in static bioassays showed that a chemical dispersant (Corexit® 9527) increased the amount of total oil in water more than 50-fold. The toxicity of chemically dispersed oil was assessed by conventional (96-h 50% lethal concentration) methods in static systems, and the results were compared with toxicity measurements where the system was flushed after 12 h. The 12-h single-dose systems simulated certain active natural systems by the incorporation of dilution by tides and by using shorter exposure times. The rationale was verified by work with oil spills in the tropics. Using actual total hydrocarbon concentration for crude oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant alone allowed a comparison of their toxicities. Prudhoe Bay crude WSF was more toxic than dispersed oil or dispersant alone, possibly because of the large component of benzene, toluene, and C-2 benzene. The percentage of green (chlorophyllous) leaves was useful as evidence of toxicity. The importance of anatomical features such as recessed meristem and abundant leaf sheaths in protecting the growing region from waterborne pollutants was evident.