Leptochloa fusca (L.) Kunth

bearded sprangletop

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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

Bearded sprangletop, with its whimsical common name, has two subspecies in New England. By far the most widespread, (ssp. fascicularis) is native. The other (ssp. uninerva) is introduced in New England, where it is known only from Massachusetts.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), coastal beaches (sea beaches), marshes

Characteristics

Habitat
  • aquatic
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf blade width
2–7 mm
Inflorescence branches
the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
Spikelet length
5–12 mm
Glume relative length
neither glume is quite as long as 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
0–3.5 mm
Leaf sheath hair type
there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
Leaf ligule length
2–8 mm
Anther length
0.2–1 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    0.2–1 mm
    Anther number
    2–3
    Awn on glume
    the glume has no awn
    Floret lower bract texture
    the lemma is thin and flexible
    Floret number
    6–20
    Glume relative length
    neither glume is quite as long as all of the florets
    Glume veins
    1
    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 length
    5–720 mm
    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
    Lemma awn base
    the awn is attached right at the tip of the lemma
    Lemma awn length
    0–3.5 mm
    Lemma awn number
    • the lemma has no awn
    • the lemma has one awn on it
    Lemma cross-section
    the lemma is flat or rounded if you cut across the midpoint
    Lemma surface
    the surface of the lemma is relatively smooth (not counting any longitudinal veins or hairs)
    Lemma vein number
    3
    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 an extension of the spikelet axis beyond the tip of the spikelet
    Spikelet length
    5–12 mm
    Spikelets spiny
    the spikelets do not appear spiny
  • Leaves
    Leaf auricles
    the leaves do not have auricles
    Leaf blade width
    2–7 mm
    Leaf ligule length
    2–8 mm
    Leaf ligule type
    the leaf ligule is in the form of a membrane
    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 hair type
    there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    Leaf sheath hairs
    there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
  • Place
    Habitat
    • aquatic
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • marshes
    • sea beaches
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Stem spacing
    the stems grow close together in compact clusters or tufts

Wetland Status

Not classified

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

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

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

ssp. fascicularis

Connecticut
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)
Massachusetts
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), threatened (code: T)
New Hampshire
historical (S-rank: SH), endangered (code: E)
Rhode Island
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), state endangered (code: SE)

ssp. uninervia

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Beckmannia syzigachne:
spikelets nearly circular in outline, with 1 floret or 2 florets and then the upper one sterile, and glumes cross-wrinkled, their tips crossing (vs. L. fusca, with spikelets clearly longer than wide, with 2-20 bisexual florets, and glumes not cross-wrinkled, their tips separate).
Leptochloa panicea:
leaf sheaths sparsely to densely pubescent with pustulose-based hairs, ligule 0.6–3.2 mm long, truncate at apex, and spikelets 2–4 mm long (vs. L. fusca, with leaf sheaths glabrous or scabrous, but not pustulose-pubescent, ligule 2–8 mm long, attenuate at apex and becoming lacerate at maturity, and spikelets 5–12 mm long).

Family

Poaceae

Genus

Leptochloa

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Subspecies fascicularis is native and known from CT, MA, NH, RI, VT. Subspecies uninervia is non-native and known from MA. Reports of ssp. uninervia from ME (e.g., Campbell et al. 1995) are based on collections taken from cultivated plants— Sep 1896, Harvey & Harvey s.n. (MAINE!). Coastal plants with long awns have been segregated under the epithet “ maritima”. Given that awn length and salinity tolerance are known to vary within this species, these plants are best referred to as ecological variants.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Leptochloa fusca (L.) Kunth n

bearded sprangletop.  1a. Diplachne acuminata Nash; D. fascicularis (Lam.) Beauv.; 
 D. maritima Bickn.; Leptochloa fascicularis (Lam.) Gray; L. fascicularis (Lam.) Gray var. 
 maritima (Bickn.) Gleason;  1b. Diplachne uninervia (J. Presl) Parodi; Leptochloa uninervia 
 (J. Presl) A.S. Hitchc. & Chase • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Saline marshes, coastal beaches, 
railroads, disturbed ground.

1a.  Uppermost leaf usually partly enclosing the inflorescence in the sheath, the blade usually exceeding the inflorescence; mature lemmas gray-white, usually with a dark spot in the basal portion; reproductive stems prostrate to erect … 1a. L. fusca ssp. fascicularis (Lam.) N. Snow

1b.  Uppermost leaf usually not partly enclosing the inflorescence (i.e., the inflorescence completely exserted), the blade usually not exceeding the inflorescence; mature lemmas light brown, dark-green, or gray, usually lacking a dark, basal spot; reproductive stems erect to ascending … 1b. L. fusca ssp. uninervia (J. Presl) N. Snow

Subspecies fascicularis is native and known from CT, MA, NH, RI, VT. Subspecies uninervia 
 is non-native and known from MA. Reports of ssp. uninervia from ME (e.g., Campbell et al. 
1995) are based on collections taken from cultivated plants— Sep 1896, Harvey & Harvey 
s.n. ( MAINE!). Coastal plants with long awns have been segregated under the epithet “ maritima”. Given that awn length and salinity tolerance are known to vary within this 
species, these plants are best referred to as ecological variants.