Comprehensive Description

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This perennial grass is about 1½–2½' long, forming short lateral branches along the central culm. This grass usually sprawls across the ground or on neighboring vegetation, although it is sometimes more erect. The central culm is slender, terete, glabrous, and light green to light reddish green (but becoming tan after the blooming period). There are 6-12 alternate leaves along the central culm and fewer alternate leaves along the lateral branches. The leaf blades are up to 4" (10 cm.) long and 7 mm. across; they are widest toward the middle or lower-middle, hairless, and flat. The upper blade surface is medium green and dull-colored, while the lower blade surface is pale green. The leaf sheaths are light to medium green, hairless, and usually shorter than the internodes of the culm. The ligules are 1-1.5 mm. long and stiff-membranous, while the nodes are short, swollen, and glabrous. The central culm terminates in a narrow panicle of spikelets up to 4" long and ¾" across. This panicle has about 6-12 appressed to ascending branchlets that are up to 1" long. Pedicellate spikelets occur near the bases of these branchlets to their tips; they are densely distributed and abundant. Axillary panicles also develop from the middle to upper leaves on short lateral branches; these axillary panicles are smaller than the terminal panicle, otherwise they are similar in appearance. The panicles are either sessile to the uppermost leaves, or they have short peduncles up to ¾" long. The peduncles, rachis (central stalk), branchlets, and pedicels of the panicles are light green and hairless. While the florets are blooming, these panicles spread outward to their maximum extent (about ¾" across), becoming broadest toward the middle or lower-middle. At this time, they are shiny light green (sometimes with pale purplish tints). After the florets have bloomed, the panicles contract their branches, becoming more narrow, and they become light tan. Each spikelet consists of a pair of narrowly lanceolate glumes, a narrowly lanceolate lemma, and a membranous palea; the glumes, lemma, and palea are about 2-3 mm. long. On rare occasions, the lemmas have short awns (1-2 mm. in length), otherwise they are awnless. Each floret has 3 anthers, a pair of plumose stigmas, and an ovary. The blooming period occurs during late summer or autumn, lasting about 1-3 weeks for a colony of plants. The florets are cross-pollinated by the wind. Disarticulation of the spikelets is above the glumes. At this time, the small grains are enclosed by an adherent pericarp consisting of their lemmas and paleas. The root system is fibrous and long-rhizomatous. This grass often forms clonal colonies. Cultivation


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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