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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

14. Hierochloe R. Br. -- Holygrass, sweetgrass

1. Hierochloe odorata (L.) Beauv.

Perennial from creeping, often deep-seated rhizomes, sweetly scented (like sweetclover) especially when dried; culms erect, (1)2.5-5(7) dm tall, glabrous, sometimes clothed at the base by the previous year's leaves. Leaf blades flat (inrolled when young), much shorter (mostly 1-4 cm long) on the culms than on sterile shoots, 2.5-8 mm wide, glabrous or puberulent; sheaths glabrous or puberulent, especially at the collar; ligules membranous, 1-4 mm long. Inflorescence an ovoid to pyramidal panicle 4-10 cm long, the branches spreading to ascending. Spikelets golden-brown or often bicolored when young, with greenish or purplish at the base and golden toward the tips, 3-flowered, the lower 2 florets staminate, the terminal one perfect-flowered, disarticulating above the glumes with the 3 florets falling as a unit; glumes broadly ovate, subequal, 3.5-5.5 mm long, membranous and nearly transparent except at the base, faintly 1- to 3-nerved; lemmas of staminate florets golden-brown, 3-4 mm long, hirsute at the tip, along the margins and at the base, 5-nerved; lemma of the perfect floret 2.5-3.2 mm long, hirsute at the tip, otherwise smooth and shiny, obscurely 3- to 7-nerved; anthers of staminate florets 1.6-2.2 mm long, those of the perfect floret 1-1.6 mm long. Grain formed in few spikelets, retained inside the lemma, golden-brown, broadly ellipsoid, 1-1.5 mm long. Late Apr--Jul. Wet meadows and low prairie, often where sandy; frequent from n ND to e SD, otherwise rare in the Black Hills; (Circumboreal, in N.Amer. from Labr. to AK, s to NJ, OH, IL, IA, SD, AZ and WA).
GIF- Species Photo/Drawing

Hierochloe odorata (from Hitchcock 1950).
GIF- Distribution Map

Map key

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