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Bottlebrush Grass (Elymus hystrix) has a distinctive inflorescence and an attractive appearance. The bottlebrush appearance of the floral raceme makes it easy to identify. The spikelets of other Wild Rye grasses (Elymus spp.) are less remote from each other and more erect along the rachises (central stalks) of their floral racemes. Other Wild Rye grasses also have a pair of long glumes at the bases of their spikelets, while the spikelets of Bottlebrush Grass usually lack such glumes (or they have been reduced to awns up to 15 mm. long). Because of these structural differences, Bottlebrush Grass was assigned to a different genus in the past and referred to as Hystrix patula. Because this grass forms a naturally occurring hybrid with Virginia Wild Rye (Elymus virginicus), it was reassigned to the Elymus genus. The hybrid of these two grasses is referred to as Ebinger's Wild Rye (Elymus × ebingeri). This hybrid displays characteristics that are intermediate between the two parents. In particular, the spikelets are distributed along its floral racemes at intermediate densities, and the glumes of this hybrid are often reduced to long awns that exceed 15 mm. in length (or the bodies of its glumes are linear in shape, rather than linear-lanceolate).


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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