Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

The large inflorescence is attractive, forming a purple haze in the distance. Purple Love Grass has spread throughout the state along roads and railways, but it is selective in the habitats that it invades. On moist fertile ground, taller grasses and forbs will displace this species. Compared to many other Eragrostis spp. (Love Grasses), Purple Love Grass has wider leaf blades (3-8 mm. across), an inflorescence that is longer than the rest of the plant, pedicels that are longer than the spikelets, and more showy purple spikelets. There is some variation in the size of the spikelets, lemmas and glumes; also, the hairiness of the foliage can be variable across different populations.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This native perennial grass is 1-2' tall and tufted at the base with erect to widely spreading culms. Each culm has 3-4 alternate leaves; it is unbranched, light green to light tan, glabrous, and mostly hidden by the sheaths. The leaf blades are 3-8 mm. across and up to 10" long; they are medium green, ascending to widely spreading, and usually hairless (except near the base of the blade). The leaf sheaths are open, rather loose, and more or less hairy. However, sometimes the upper sheaths are hairless. Each ligule consists of a ring of long white hairs; these hairs are conspicuous at the junction of each blade and sheath. The inflorescence is up to 15" long and 12" across, globoid-ovoid in overall shape, and larger than the rest of the plant; it consists of an airy panicle of spikelets with widely spreading branches. Along the central axis (rachis) of this panicle, there are whorls of 3 branches, which divide into smaller branches. At each whorl along the central axis, there is a small tuft of hair. Sometimes smaller tufts of hair can be found where the branches divide into smaller branches. These branches are very slender and somewhat stiff. Individual spikelets occur on slender pedicels; these pedicels are usually longer than the spikelets. The spikelets are about 4-7 mm. long, 1.5 mm. across, and flattened; they are pale purple to bright purple when the florets bloom, but later become light tan. Each spikelet consists of a pair of glumes and 5-15 lemmas in two columnar ranks. The lemmas are 1.5–2.0 mm. long, ovate, folded along their keels, and 3-veined. The glumes are lanceolate, folded along their keels, and a little shorter than the lemmas. The blooming period occurs from late summer to early fall. At maturity, the entire inflorescence can become detached and blow about in the wind, thereby distributing the seeds. The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

Grass Family (Poaceae). Purple lovegrass is a native, warm season, perennial bunch grass. The height is between 1 and 3 feet. The leaf blade is 8 to 18 inches long; densely hairy; stiffly ascending when young; tapers to fine point. The leaf sheath is longer than internodes; covered with long, gray hair. The ligule is hairy. The seedhead is open panicle 1 to 2 feet long and about as wide, bright purple until maturity; tuft of hair in axial of seed stalks, spikelets 6  to 12 flowered.

Distribution: For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Alternative names

petticoat-climber, tumble grass

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Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Purple Love Grass is occasional to locally common throughout Illinois; it can be found in every county (see Distribution Map). Habitats include hill prairies, sand prairies, upland savannas and sandy savannas, limestone glades, sandy or gravelly areas along railroads, sandy or gravelly roadsides, sandy paths, and fields. Disturbed sandy areas are preferred. Faunal Associations
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Perennials, Terrestrial, not aquatic, Rhizomes present, Rhizome short and compact, stems close, Stems nodes swollen or brittle, Stems erect or ascending, Stems geniculate, decumbent, or lax, sometimes rooting at nodes, Stems caespitose, tufted, or clustered, Stems terete, round in cross section, or polygonal, Stem internodes solid or spongy, Stem internodes hollow, Stems with inflorescence less than 1 m tall, Stems, culms, or scapes exceeding basal leaves, Leaves mostly basal, below middle of stem, Leaves mostly cauline, Leaves sheathing at base, Leaf sheath mostly open, or loose, Leaf sheath smooth, glabrous, Leaf sheath hairy at summit, throat, or collar, Leaf sheath and blade differentiated, Leaf sheath indurate basally, Leaf blades linear, Leaf blades 2-10 mm wide, Leaf blades mostly flat, Leaf blades mostly glabrous, Leaf blades scabrous, roughened, or wrinkled, Ligule present, Ligule a fringe of hairs, Inflorescence terminal, Inflorescence an open panicle, openly paniculate, branches spreading, Inflorescence a contracted panicle, narrowly paniculate, branches appressed or ascending, Inflorescence a dense slender spike-like panicle or raceme, branches contracted, Inflorescence solitary, with 1 spike, fascicle, glomerule, head, or cluster per stem or culm, Inflorescence branches more than 10 to numerous, Flowers bisexual, Spikelets pedicellate, Spikelets laterally compressed, Inflorescence or spikelets partially hidden in leaf sheaths, subtended by spatheole, Spikelet less than 3 mm wide, Spikelets with 3-7 florets, Spikelets with 8-40 florets, Spikelets solitary at rachis nodes, Spikelets all alike and fertille, Spikelets bisexual, Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes, glumes persistent, Spikelets disarti culating beneath or between the florets, Entire inflorescence falling intact, as a tumbleweed, Rachilla or pedicel glabrous, Glumes present, empty bracts, Glumes 2 clearly present, Glumes equal or subequal, Glumes distinctly unequal, Glumes shorter than adjacent lemma, Glumes 1 nerved, Lemmas thin, chartaceous, hyaline, cartilaginous, or membranous, Lemma similar in texture to glumes, Lemma 3 nerved, Lemma glabrous, Lemma apex acute or acuminate, Lemma awnless, Lemma margins thin, lying flat, Lemma straight, Palea present, well developed, Palea membranous, hyaline, Palea shorter than lemma, Palea 2 nerved or 2 keeled, Palea keels winged, scabrous, or ciliate, Stamens 3, Styles 2-fid, deeply 2-branched, Stigmas 2, Fruit - caryopsis, Caryopsis ellipsoid, longitudinally grooved, hilum long-linear.
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Dr. David Bogler

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Type Information

Type fragment for Poa spectabilis Pursh
Catalog Number: US 2891488
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Card file verified by examination of alleged type specimen
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): J. Clayton
Locality: Around San Felix., Chiriquí, Panama, Central America
  • Type fragment: Pursh, F. T. 1814. Fl. Amer. Sept. 1: 81.
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© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Type fragment for Eragrostis geyeri Steud.
Catalog Number: US 2891474
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Card file verified by examination of alleged type specimen
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): E. G. von Steudel
Locality: Illinois, United States, North America
  • Type fragment: Steudel, E. G. von. 1854. Syn. Pl. Glumac. 1: 272.
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© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Purple Love Grass is occasional to locally common throughout Illinois; it can be found in every county (see Distribution Map). Habitats include hill prairies, sand prairies, upland savannas and sandy savannas, limestone glades, sandy or gravelly areas along railroads, sandy or gravelly roadsides, sandy paths, and fields. Disturbed sandy areas are preferred. Faunal Associations
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Dispersal

Establishment

Growth starts in the early spring and continues into the fall. Purple lovegrass grows in colonies. It never makes up a large percentage of plant composition. The seedheads are weak, break off easily, and tumble in the wind. Some plants produce short, slender rhizomes. It is primarily adapted to medium  and coarse textured soils.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Eragrostis spectabilis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Eragrostis spectabilis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Management

Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

Please contact your local NRCS Field Office.

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Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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This grass adds variety to livestock diet but is seldom abundant enough to be a key management species. It makes maximum production when no more than 50 percent of current year's growth by weight is grazed off. A summer grazing deferment of at least 90 days improves plant vigor. This grass increases under controlled annual burning.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

Preferred growing conditions are full sun and dry barren soil containing sand or gravel. Because of a C4 metabolism, most vegetative growth occurs during the summer when the weather is warm. This low-growing grass is resistant to drought.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Uses

Livestock readily graze purple lovegrass in the spring and early summer. On heavily grazed areas, deer dig up and eat the basal part of the stem during the winter.

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