IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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This native perennial plant is about 2½–4' tall, unbranched, and more or less erect; vegetative clumps of plants are often formed. The culm is green and glabrous. The alternate leaves are up to 1½' long and ¾" across; there are up to 8 leaves per culm. The leaf blades are yellowish green to dark green, linear in shape, flat, glabrous, rough along the margins, and somewhat floppy. Venation of the leaf blades is parallel; on some leaves, there are observable cross-veins connecting the parallel veins at short intervals along the blade (septate). The sheaths are glabrous and septate as well. The culm terminates in an inflorescence consisting in a compound umbel (less often, a simple umbel is produced); there are 3 or more spreading leafy bracts underneath this umbel. The leafy bracts have the same characteristics as the leaf blades; they are up to 1' long and ½" across. The bracts are variable in size, but at least one of them is longer than the inflorescence. A typical compound umbel produces several branches (often called 'rays') in all directions; these branches are variable in length, but can be several inches long. Each of these branches terminates in a small cluster of 6-26 spikelets, from which short branchlets radiate in all directions to terminate into additional clusters of spikelets. In some plants, secondary branchlets develop to form even smaller clusters of spikelets. Both the branches and branchlets of the compound umbel are stiff and straight. On most plants, the spikelet clusters are arranged into irregular umbellets; they are often somewhat compressed together. At the base of each umbellet, there are one or more slender leafy bractlets; these bractlets are much smaller than the leafy bracts at the base of the compound umbel. Each spikelet is about 3-6 mm. (1/8–1/4") in length; it is greenish brown to blackish brown and ovoid, consisting of numerous flowers with overlapping scales. These flowers have 3 stamens and a tripartite style. The outer scale of each flower is ovate, some shade of brown, and about 1.5–2 mm. in length (less than 1/8"). The blooming period occurs during early to mid-summer. Pollination is by wind. Each flower is replaced by a tiny achene about 1.0 mm. long; this achene is surrounded by 6 bristles that are about the same length as the achene. The ripened achenes are 3-angled and light brown. The root system consists of rhizomes and fibrous roots.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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