Anthoxanthum hirtum (Schrank) Y. Schouten & Veldkamp

northern sweet grass

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Northern sweet grass has a circumpolar distribution including parts of North America, but it is considered introduced in New England. Its stems release a vanilla-like scent on drying, and partly for this reason it has a number of traditional uses. It has been used by native Americans for ceremonial and practical purposes including as an incense, a fragrance, a fiber to weave baskets and mats, and to stuff pillows and mattresses. Infusions of northern sweetgrass were used to treat colds, coughs and fever.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), meadows and fields, shores of rivers or lakes

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
Leaf blade width
2.5–5.5 mm
Inflorescence branches
the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
Spikelet length
4–6.3 mm
Glume relative length
both glumes are as long or longer than all of the florets
Awn on glume
the glume has no awn
One or more florets
there is more than one floret per spikelet
Lemma awn length
0.1–1 mm
Leaf ligule length
2.5–5.5 mm
Anther length
1.2–2.1 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    1.2–2.1 mm
    Anther number
    2–3
    Awn on glume
    the glume has no awn
    Bristles below spikelets
    no
    Floret lower bract texture
    the lemma is hard and firm
    Floret types within spikelet
    all the florets within a spikelet are similar
    Glume awn length
    0 mm
    Glume keel
    the glume keels are smooth and hairless
    Glume relative length
    both glumes are as long or longer than all of the florets
    Glume shape
    the glume is V-shaped in cross-section
    Glume veins
    • 1
    • 3
    • 5
    Glumes per spikelet
    2
    Inflorescence arrangement
    the spikelets are uniform
    Inflorescence axis orientation
    • the inflorescence axis is arched or curved outward
    • the inflorescence axis is straight
    Inflorescence branches
    the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
    Inflorescence crowding
    the panicle is somewhat to very spread out, with clearly-evident branches
    Inflorescence length
    50–150 mm
    Inflorescence length to width ratio
    1.5–2.5
    Inflorescence type (general)
    the spikelets are borne on stalks or on branches
    Inflorescence type (specific)
    the inflorescence is branched, and the branches do NOT both grow from the same side of the plant AND look like spikes
    Inflorescence width
    20–100 mm
    Inforescence position
    the spikelets are mainly carried at the end of the stem
    Lemma awn base
    • NA
    • the awn is attached right at the tip of the lemma
    Lemma awn coiled
    the lemma awn is straight or twisted, but not coiled one half turn
    Lemma awn length
    0.1–1 mm
    Lemma awn number
    • the lemma has no awn
    • the lemma has one awn on it
    Lemma awn orientation
    the awn of the lemma is straight
    Lemma cross-section
    the lemma is V-shaped if you cut across the midpoint
    Lemma hairs
    the lemma has fine hairs between the veins
    Lemma keel hairs
    the keel of the lemma is rough, or has fine hairs
    Lemma marginal vein hairs
    the marginal vein of the lemma has fine hairs on it
    Lemma surface
    the surface of the lemma is relatively smooth (not counting any longitudinal veins or hairs)
    Lemma tip
    • the lemma tip is a simple point, with or without an awn (long narrow extension ending in a point)
    • the lemma tip is split into two or more points
    Lemma tip shape
    the lemma tip tapers to a narrow point (it may or may not also have an awn or teeth at the tip)
    Lemma vein number
    3
    Lower glume relative length
    the lower glume is nearly as long, or as long as, the upper glume
    One or more florets
    there is more than one floret per spikelet
    Palea relative length
    palea is one half to fully as long as lemma
    Spikelet axis tip
    there is no extension of the spikelet axis beyond the tip of the spikelet
    Spikelet disintegration
    the spikelet breaks off below the glumes
    Spikelet length
    4–6.3 mm
    Spikelet number per node
    0
    Spikelets spiny
    the spikelets do not appear spiny
    Tip of glume
    the tip of the glume is not divided (though it may have an awn on it)
    Upper glume relative length
    the upper glume is more than one half as long as the lowest lemma
    Upper glume shape
    the upper glume is widest at or below the middle
  • Growth form
    Horizontal rooting stem
    no
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Rhizomes
    yes
    Roots
    the plant has rhizomes (horizontal underground stem with roots growing from it)
  • Leaves
    Leaf auricles
    the leaves do not have auricles
    Leaf basal lobe hairy
    NA
    Leaf blade hairs
    • the leaf blade is hairless, but it may have tiny prickles that give it a sand-papery feel
    • the leaf blade is hairy
    Leaf blade width
    2.5–5.5 mm
    Leaf ligule length
    2.5–5.5 mm
    Leaf ligule type
    the leaf ligule is in the form of a membrane
    Leaf margin glands
    there are no glands along the edges of the leaf blade
    Leaf sheath closed around stem
    the margins of the leaf sheath are overlapping and not fused together except in the basal half (or less)
    Leaf sheath color and persistence
    • the leaf sheathes are off-white to light-brown and mostly persist in older leaves
    • the leaf sheathes are reddish-brown and disintegrate or become shredded in older leaves
  • Place
    Habitat
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
    • shores of rivers or lakes
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Plant height
    40–110 cm
    Stem spacing
    • the stems grow close together in compact clusters or tufts
    • the stems grow singly or a few together (they may form diffuse colonies)

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in wetlands, but occasionally in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACW)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

None

Native to North America?

Yes and no (some introduced)

Sometimes Confused With

Anthoxanthum nitens:
pubescence of lemma of bisexual floret appressed to appressed-ascending, 0.1–0.5 mm long, sometimes longer hairs can be found near the keel, tending to be concentrated toward the keel, i.e., often noticeably sparser near the margins (vs. A. hirtum, with the pubescence of lemma of bisexual floret loosely ascending, 0.5–1 mm long, +/- uniformly distributed around the apex of the lemma).

Synonyms

  • Hierochloe hirta (Schrank) Borbás
  • Savastana hirta Schrank

Family

Poaceae

Genus

Anthoxanthum

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Anthoxanthum hirtum (Schrank) Y. Schouten & Veldkamp E

northern sweet grass. Hierochloe hirta (Schrank) Borbás; Savastana hirta Schrank • MA, ME, 
 NH, VT. Roadsides, meadows, shorelines.