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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin

KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS

(Poa pratensis L.)


Kentucky bluegrass

GRASS FAMILY (Gramineae or Poaceae)

IND. STATUS: FAC-

FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: A perennial, sod-forming grass 1-10 dm. in height. Its characteristic of forming many rhizomes helps distinguish it from some other grass species. Stems are erect and nearly round or slightly flattened. Leaf blades are flat to folded, 1-15 cm. long, 2-5 mm. wide, ending in a boat-shaped tip. Ligules are shorter than wide, and less than 2 mm. in length. Inflorescence is a panicle that is open to somewhat contracted. Spikelets are 2-5 flowered and laterally compressed (flattened). Lemmas have abundant cottony hairs at the base easily visible with a hand lens. Lemmas are 5-nerved, the keel hairy on about the basal two-thirds, and only scabrous to smooth on the upper third.

Kentucky bluegrass
Figure 24 - Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis)
Illustrations by Elsie Froeschner in The Grasses of Iowa by Richard Pohl, Vol. 40, No. 4 (May 1966), of the Iowa State Journal of Science. Used herein with permission from the Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa.

A similar, common species, fowl bluegrass (Poa palustris L.), can be distinguished from Kentucky bluegrass by its lack of rhizomes, more open/loose panicle, and conspicuous ligules 2.5-5.0 mm. in length. Fowl bluegrass has an indicator status of FACW+. See the ink drawing below.

Fowl bluegrass
Figure 25 - Fowl Bluegrass (Poa palustris)
Illustrations by Elsie Froeschner in The Grasses of Iowa by Richard Pohl, Vol. 40, No. 4 (May 1966), of the Iowa State Journal of Science. Used herein with permission from the Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa.

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: Kentucky bluegrass is ubiquitous in all but the wettest habitats (Voss 1972). Vacant urban lands, pastured areas and abandoned agricultural lands are prime habitat for this species. Wetland delineators have found Kentucky bluegrass to be one of the most common species encountered in the upland/wetland transition zone of sites in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

SOURCE: Voss (1972); Gleason and Cronquist (1991); Great Plains Flora Association (1991); and Swink and Wilhelm (1994).


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