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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Aquatic and Wetland Vascular Plants of the Northern Great Plains

63. Poaceae, the Grass Family

10. Distichlis Raf.

1. Distichlis spicata (L.) Greene -- Saltgrass

Low, extensively rhizomatous, dioecious perennial 1-3 dm tall, the culms wiry, erect. Leaf blades strongly ascending, the uppermost reaching or surpassing the panicle, flat to involute, 0.5-3 mm wide, glabrous or with sparse hairs; sheaths glabrous or sparsely hairy, usually long-hairy at the collar; ligule inconspicuous. Panicle simple, narrow and contracted, rather few-flowered, 3-6 cm long. Spikelets several to many, short-pedicelled, strongly ascending, 8-20 mm long; staminate spikelets stramineous, mostly 8- to 15-flowered; pistillate spikelets greenish-gray, mostly 7- to 9-flowered, disarticulating above the glumes; glumes unequal, 3- to 7-nerved, the lateral nerves sometimes obscure, the first glume ovate to lanceolate, 1-4 mm long, the second glume lanceolate, 2-5 mm long; lemmas ovate, 3-6 mm long, acute to subacute, keeled, broadly scarious-margined, otherwise firm, many-nerved; palea nearly as long as the lemma, broader than the lemma at the base, coriaceous, enclosing the grain in the pistillate floret; anthers 2-3(4) mm long on male plants. Grain dull to coppery brown, the surface rather wrinkled, lance-subulate, 3-4.5 mm long, including the long tapering beak. Jun--early Sep. Alkaline or saline flats and shores, also drier sites; common; (w MN to Sask. and WA, s to TX and CA and into Mex.). D. stricta (Torr.) Rydb.

Northern Great Plains populations belong to var. stricta (Torr.) Beetle, which is the inland phase.


Beetle, A. A.  1943.  The North American variations of Distichlis spicata.
     Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 70:638-650.
GIF- Species Photo/Drawing
Distichlis spicata (from Hitchcock 1950, as D. stricta).
GIF- Distribution Map

Map key

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