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Description

This perennial grass is 1-3½' tall, forming a tuft of leafy culms, or tussock. The culms are light to medium green, terete, glabrous to sparsely long-hairy, and unbranched. Hairs are especially like to occur on the culm near the bases of the blades. Alternate leaves occur along the entire length of each culm, becoming gradually smaller as they ascend. The leaf blades are 4-20" long and 3-10 mm. across; they are medium to dark green, linear in shape, and mostly glabrous, except toward their bases, where the blades are often sparsely white-hairy and ciliate. Each fertile culm terminates in a spike-like raceme or panicle that is 3-8" long and ¾-1½" across. The raceme or panicle resembles a bottlebrush from the long bristles of the densely arranged spikelets. The peduncle of this inflorescence is relatively short (less than 3" long), light to medium green, terete, and glabrous to moderately long-hairy. The rachis of the raceme or panicle is light green and glabrous to moderately hairy. The spikelets have hairy stipe-like bases about 2-3 mm. in length. These spikelets almost always occur individually, rather than in pairs; they are 5-8 mm. in length and narrowly lanceoloid in shape. The spikelets are sessile on their stipes, or they have short pedicels less than 1 mm. in length. Each spikelet consists of a short glume (0.5-2.0 mm. in length), a long glume (2-4 mm. in length), a sterile lemma, and a fertile lemma with a perfect floret. Both lemmas are about the same length as the spikelet (5-8 mm. in length), light green (while immature), glabrous, and longitudinally veined. The perfect florets have 3 anthers and a pair of feathery white stigmata. Originating from the base of each spikelet, there are 10-30 bristles. The longer bristles are ¾-1½" in length, while shorter bristles are about the same length or a little longer than the spikelets. These bristles are light green or reddish purple (during the blooming period), relatively straight, and glabrous. The blooming period occurs during late summer or early fall, lasting about 2-3 weeks. The florets are cross-pollinated by the wind. At maturity, the spike-like racemes or panicles become white, tan, or light green; each spikelet contains a single grain. The grains are 2.5-3.0 mm. in length and ellipsoid-oblongoid in shape. They are dispersed to some extent by the wind. The root system is fibrous and short-rhizomatous.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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