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The vernal form of this perennial grass is 2-3' long, often forming tufts of unbranched leafy culms that are erect to sprawling. There are typically 5-8 leaves along the lower three-fourths of each culm. The culms are light green to purplish green, glabrous, slender, and terete; they are often exposed because the internodes are longer than the sheaths. The open sheaths are light green to purple, longitudinally veined, and usually glabrous (less often sparsely pubescent); their margins are often strongly ciliate. The sheaths are tight toward the nodes, becoming more loose toward the blades. The flat leaf blades are 6-14 mm. across and 3½-6" long; they are pale to medium green, dull-colored, and mostly glabrous, except toward their bases, where they may have long hairs. The blades taper only slightly, if at all, toward their bases. The ligules are only 1 mm. across, consisting of a ring of hairs. The nodes have long downward-pointing (reflexed or retrorse) hairs. Each vernal culm terminates in a strongly exerted panicle of spikelets about 2-5" long. The panicles are pyramidal in shape and sparingly branched, providing them with an airy appearance. The central axis and lateral branches of each panicle are light green, glabrous, and wiry in appearance; the lateral branches are slightly ascending to widely spreading. Individual spikelets terminate the tips of the lateral branches and their subdivisions. These spikelets are about 1.5 mm. long and one-half as much across; they are light green to purplish green, broadly ellipsoid in shape, longitudinally veined, and glabrous (rarely sparsely pubescent). Each spikelet consists of a short glume (about one-fourth of the length of the spikelet), a long glume, a lemma, and the floret. The long glume and lemma are the same length as the spikelet, comprising its two sides. The blooming period occurs during late spring, lasting about 1-2 weeks. Afterwards, the spikelets become light brown, producing one grain per spikelet. The grains are ellipsoid in shape, slightly flattened, and a little shorter than the spikelets. After the vernal culms wither away, they are replaced during the summer by low autumnal culms that are densely branched, forming sprawling mats. These autumn culms can produce few-flowered spikelets. The root system of this grass consists of a crown of fibrous roots.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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