Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Northeast Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Distichlis spicata (L.) Greene
- Family: Grass (Gramineae)
- Flowering: August-October
- Field Marks: This grass is distinguished by its relatively short stature, its colonial habit,
its male and female flowers borne on separate plants, its several-flowered spikelets, and
its 2-ranked, stiff, inrolled leaves.
- Habitat: Salt marshes, brackish marshes.
- Habit: Perennial from slender, creeping rhizomes, often covering extensive expanses of
- Stems: Upright, branched or unbranched, smooth, pale green or glaucous, up to 1 1/2 feet
- Leaves: Elongated, rigid, inrolled, smooth, strongly 2-ranked, up to 4 inches long.
- Flowers: Borne in spikelets, the male and female spikelets in panicles on separate plants,
the panicles ovoid, up to 2 1/2 inches long; male spikelets 8- to 12-flowered, up to 1/2 inch
long; female spikelets 4- to 9-flowered, up to 1/2 inch long.
- Glumes: Lanceolate, pointed at the tip, smooth, up to 1/6 inch long, 3- to 7-nerved.
- Lemmas: Lanceolate, pointed at the tip, smooth, up to 1/6 inch long, 3- to 7-nerved.
- Sepals: 0.
- Petals: 0.
- Stamens: 3.
- Pistils: Ovary superior, smooth.
- Fruits: Grains ellipsoid, up to 1/12 inch long, smooth.
- Notes: This family is called Poaceae by Gleason and Cronquist. They list an additional
variety, D. spicata var. stricta, which occurs on saline or alkaline soils within the interior of
the United States and Canada. In tidal shoreline restorations and natural salt marshes, this
species is located above the tide behind the Spartina patens (salt hay) zone.
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