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Comprehensive Description

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Description

This native perennial plant is 1½–4' tall and unbranched or little-branched. The slender culm is light green, glabrous, and terete (round in cross-section); several alternate leaves occur along its entire length. The leaf blades are up to 10" long and 1" across; they are linear-lanceolate, light to medium green, flat, and hairless. The leaf sheaths are light green, hairless to minutely pubescent, and open toward their apices. The ligules are conspicuously ciliate. The culm terminates in a panicle of spikelets about 4-12" long and about one-half as much across. The panicle is more or less erect, although its lateral branches and pedicels are drooping. Along the rachis (central stalk) of the panicle, there are 1-2 lateral branches originating from its nodes; each of these lateral branches terminates into 2-6 spikelets with pedicels. The rachis, lateral branches, and pedicels are light green, slender, and glabrous to minutely pubescent. Individual spikelets are ¾–1½" long, about ½" across, and strongly flattened; they are light green (while immature) and mostly glabrous. Sometimes the spikelets are tinted red along their margins near the tips of their lemmas. Each spikelet consists of a pair of glumes at the bottom and 5-15 lemmas above that are arranged in 2 overlapping ranks.  The lowest 1-2 lemmas in a spikelet are often sterile. The glumes are 5-7 mm. long, lanceolate in shape, longitudinally veined, and strongly keeled. The lemmas are 6-12 mm. long, ovate in shape, longitudinally veined, and strongly keeled; the sterile lemmas are smaller in size than the fertile lemmas. The keels of the lemmas are minutely pubescent. Each perfect floret of a fertile lemma has 2 stigmas,a single anther, and an ovary. The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early autumn, lasting about 1-2 weeks. The florets are cross-pollinated by the wind. Afterwards, the spikelets become tan to reddish bronze; the lemmas disarticulate individually from their spikelets, while the glumes are persistent. Mature grains are 2–2.5 mm. long and flattened-lanceoloid in shape. The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous; clonal colonies of plants often develop from the rhizomes. Cultivation

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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