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Description

This native grass is a summer annual, forming a mat of flowering culms about 4-12" high. At the base, each plant develops a tuft of sprawling to ascending culms. Some of these culms develop roots where they touch the ground, producing new plants with flowering culms. The culms are light green, terete, and glabrous; they are largely hidden by the sheaths. Alternate leaves occur along each culm. The leaf blades are up to 3" long and ¼" across; they are dull green, hairless, and flat. The leaf sheaths are rather loose and variably colored; they can be light green, straw-colored, or pale reddish gray. The sheaths are longitudinally veined and mostly hairless, except where they meet the blades, where there are tufts of white hair. Each culm usually branches, producing short lateral culms that often flower. The nodes are slightly swollen and hairy. Each flowering culm terminates in a panicle of spikelets about 1-3" long and about one-half as much across. Each panicle has a central branch and ascending to spreading lateral branches; the lateral branches divide into secondary lateral branches. All branches of the panicle are slender, glabrous, somewhat stiff, and slightly wiry. Each branch tip terminates in a narrow spikelet of florets about ¼–½" long. Each spikelet has a pair of glumes (empty scales) at the bottom, above which there are 10-35 overlapping lemmas (fertile scales) that are arranged into 2 columnar ranks. Individual lemmas are 1.5–2.0 mm. long, longitudinally keeled, 3-nerved, and glabrous. The lemmas toward the bottom of the spikelet are a little longer than those near the top. The glumes are similar to the lemmas, but slightly shorter in length; one glume is longer than the other. Behind each lemma, there is a single floret that lacks sepals and petals. The blooming period occurs from late summer to early fall. The florets are wind-pollinated. Disarticulation of the spikelets is above the glumes. Fertile florets produce narrow grains about 0.5 mm. long. The root system is fibrous. This grass reproduces by reseeding itself; it also spreads vegetatively when its sprawling culms develop roots after they touch the ground. Large colonies of interconnected plants are often formed.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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