IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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Description

This native perennial grass is 1–2½' long, branching occasionally. The slender culms of this grass are initially erect, but they have a tendency to sprawl later in the year. Each culm is light green to pale purple (less often bright red), terete, and glabrous. The leaf blades are up to 3½" long and ¼" across; they are medium to greyish green, hairless, and spreading to ascending along the culms. The upper surface of each leaf often has a central vein and 2 lateral veins that are conspicuous; otherwise, its surface is rather flat. The leaf sheaths are light green to medium green, finely veined, and hairless; they are rather short and expose the culms at intervals. The lower ligules are swollen, glabrous, and pale green to reddish green; the upper ligules are more dark and sunken in appearance. The upper culms terminate in elongated panicles of spikelets about 4-10" long. These panicles have short erect branches (up to 2" long) and a spike-like appearance; they are greyish green or purplish green and silky in appearance during the period of bloom. Each spikelet is about 2 mm. long (excluding the awn) and narrowly lanceolate; it consists of 2 tiny glumes, a single awned lemma, and a membranous palea enclosing the floret. The lemma is long as the spikelet (2 mm.) and it has a slender awn that is 2–4 mm. in length. The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early fall. Pollination is by wind. The spikelets disarticulate above their tiny glumes and fall to the ground. The tiny dark seeds are small enough to be dispersed by the wind. The root system is fibrous. This grass can reproduce vegetatively by forming rootlets along the lower nodes of the culms. Even though it doesn't have rhizomes, this grass often forms colonies.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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