Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
GRASS FAMILY (Gramineae or Poaceae)
IND. STATUS: FACW+
FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: A coarse, densely clonal, perennial grass 1-2 m. high. The stout, smooth, erect stems have short ligules. The monotypic clones are 1-10 m. across. It forms a dense mass of stout, scaly rhizomes. The main leaf blades are shiny, long, and flat, between 5-10 mm. wide, and up to 1 m. long. The leaves may be inrolled, but only when dry. The margins of the leaf blades are strongly roughened. Arching leaves turn red to light straw yellow in fall. The inflorescence is a panicle with numerous, distinct one-sided spikes. Spikelets are longer than broad, overlay, and may be ascending or lie flat, resembling a comb. They are also articulated below the glumes. The glumes are unequal in size. The first glume is three-fourths as long as, to equal to, the length of the lemma. The second glume is awned.
Illustrations by Elsie Froeschner in The Grasses of Iowa by Richard Pohl, Wol. 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: Prairie cord-grass is a common dominant grass of wet prairies. It occasionally occurs in mesic prairies, but usually in low spots. It is also found on wet shores and in marshes.
SOURCE: Fassett (1951); Gleason and Cronquist (1991); and Swink and Wilhelm (1994).