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Aquatic and Wetland Vascular Plants of the Northern Great Plains

63. Poaceae, the Grass Family

26. Scolochloa Link

1. Scolochloa festucacea (Willd.) Link -- Whitetop, sprangletop


Tall rhizomatous perennial, often extensively colonial, 8-15 dm tall; culms stout, hollow, 3-5 mm thick near the base, usually with a few suckers and adventitious roots at the lower nodes. Leaves 3-10 mm wide, long-tapering to the sharp, slender tip, flat or involute along the margins, scabrous above, the sheaths glabrous; ligule white-hyaline, delicate, lacerate with age, 4-7 mm long. Panicle loose, open, 15-20 cm long, the branches ascending, bearing most of the spikelets above the middle of the panicle. Spikelets 3- to 4-flowered, purplish or green, turning stramineous with age, 7-10 mm long, disarticulating above the glumes and between the lemmas, the rachilla extended beyond the last floret; glumes unequal, lanceolate, acute or lacerate at the tip, the first glume 3-nerved, 4-7 mm long, the second glume 5-nerved, 6-9 mm long; lemmas lanceolate, acute or lacerate at the tip, the lower one or two 5-7 mm long, the upper ones smaller, firm, 7-nerved; palea as long as the lemma, firm, finely ciliate along the marginal nerves. Grain brown, white-pubescent at the tip, oblong to ellipsoid, furrowed on the upper side, 2-2.5 mm long. Jun--Jul. Usually in shallow water of fresh to brackish marshes, lakes and ponds; common and often abundant from ND and ne MT to e SD, also local in the Sand Hills; (Man. to B.C., s to n IA, NE and e OR; also n Eurasia). Fluminea festucacea (Willd.) Hitchc.

This grass is one of few emergent species which can provide a valuable forage for cattle. During dry periods, whitetop is sometimes mowed for hay. Under grazing pressure, Scolochloa disappears and is often replaced by undesirable bulrushes.

GIF- Species Photo/Drawing

Scolohcloa festucacea (from Hitchcock 1950)
GIF- Distribution Map

Map key


Previous Section -- Puccinellia nuttalliana (Schult.) Hitchc. -- Nuttall's alkaligrass
Return to Family -- Poaceae - The Grass Family
Next Section -- Spartina gracilis Trin. -- Alkali cordgrass

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