IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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This perennial grass is 3-7' tall. It typically consists of a dense tuft of flowering culms and their deciduous leaves. The culms are terete, glabrous, pale green or pale yellow, and unbranched. Alternate leaves occur primarily along the lower one-half of each culm. The leaf blades are up to 2' long and 6 mm. across; they are pale green to dark green, flat, and hairless (rarely short-pubescent). The leaf blades are ascending to widely spreading, and often arched. The leaf sheaths are pale to medium green, open, and hairless (rarely short-pubescent). The nodes of the culms are slightly swollen, dark-colored, and covered with short fine hairs (at least when they are young). The ligules are white-membranous. Each fertile culm terminates in a narrow panicle of spikelets. Each panicle is 4-14" long and ellipsoid to lanceoloid in outline, becoming broader with age. The panicle has a rachis with several ascending branches; the latter are up to 4" long. The rachis and branches are yellowish tan to golden brown, mostly glabrous, and terete. Small tufts of hair may occur where the branches diverge from the rachis. The branches divide into branchlets that terminate in clusters of 2-3 spikelets. In each cluster, the sessile spikelet is fertile, while the remaining 1-2 pedicellate spikelets are either sterile or fertile. Sterile spikelets have hairy pedicels that are 5-8 mm. long; these pedicels are empty, lacking either glumes or lemmas at their apices. Fertile spikelets, whether they are sessile or pedicellate, are 5-8 mm. long (excluding their awns) and lanceoloid in shape; they are typically golden brown during the blooming period. Each fertile spikelet consists of a pair of glumes, a sterile lemma, an awned fertile lemma, and a perfect floret. The glumes are the same length as the spikelet; they are lanceolate, convex along their outer surfaces, longitudinally veined, and somewhat shiny. One glume is covered with silky white hairs, particularly along the lower length of its length, while the other glume is mostly hairless. The sterile and fertile lemmas are 3-6 mm. long, lanceolate, membranous, and enclosed by the glumes. The fertile lemma has a long awn at its tip that is often bent, gently curved, or twisted; this awn is about 12-20 mm. (½–¾") in length. Each perfect floret has 3 yellow stamens, 2 white plumose stigmas, and an ovary; the stamens are rather large (3-5 mm. long) and showy. The blooming period occurs from late summer to early autumn, lasting about 1-2 weeks for a colony of plants. The florets are cross-pollinated by the wind. At this time, the panicle branches spread outward slightly, while later they become more appressed and ascending. At maturity, the spikelets disarticulate below the glumes, falling to the ground in their entirety. The narrow grains are about 2-2.5 mm. in length. The root system is fibrous and short-rhizomatous. Cultivation


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers


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