Piptochaetium avenaceum (L.) Parodi

black-seeded spear 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

Black-seeded spear grass may be one of the most easily recognized grasses, with its long, straight, slender, and on close inspection, twisted awns, and black caryopsis (fruit). It inhabits sandy or rocky woodlands in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Habitat

Cliffs, balds, or ledges, ridges or ledges, woodlands

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
Leaf blade width
0.5–3 mm
Inflorescence branches
the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
Spikelet length
9–15 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 one floret per spikelet
Lemma awn length
45–70 mm
Leaf sheath hair type
there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
Leaf ligule length
0.4–3.3 mm
Anther length
0.3–4 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    0.3–4 mm
    Anther number
    3
    Awn on glume
    the glume has no awn
    Bristles below spikelets
    no
    Floret lower bract texture
    the lemma is hard and firm
    Floret number
    1
    Floret types within spikelet
    all the florets within a spikelet are similar
    Glume awn length
    0 mm
    Glume relative length
    both glumes are as long or longer than all of the florets
    Glume shape
    the glume is flat or curved in cross-section
    Glume veins
    • 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 branch length
    2–4 cm
    Inflorescence branch roughness
    the inflorescence branches are somewhat to very rough
    Inflorescence branches
    the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
    Inflorescence branches coming off the lowest stem node
    2
    Inflorescence crowding
    the panicle is somewhat to very spread out, with clearly-evident branches
    Inflorescence length
    140–220 mm
    Inflorescence length to width ratio
    3.7–4.7
    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
    30–60 mm
    Inforescence position
    the spikelets are mainly carried at the end of the stem
    Lemma awn base
    the awn is attached right at the tip of the lemma
    Lemma awn coiled
    the lemma awn is coiled at least one half turn
    Lemma awn length
    45–70 mm
    Lemma awn number
    the lemma has one awn on it
    Lemma awn orientation
    • the awn of the lemma is straight
    • the awn of the lemma on dried or older plants is curved or bent outwards
    Lemma base hairs
    the lemma has hairs at the base
    Lemma base length
    2–3 mm
    Lemma cross-section
    the lemma is flat or rounded if you cut across the midpoint
    Lemma hairs
    the lemma has fine hairs between the veins
    Lemma keel hairs
    NA
    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)
    Lemma vein number
    5
    Lower glume length
    9–15 mm
    Lower glume relative length
    the lower glume is nearly as long, or as long as, the upper glume
    One or more florets
    there is one floret per spikelet
    Palea length
    7–14 mm
    Palea relative length
    palea is longer than lemma
    Reproductive system
    all the flowers on the plant have both carpels and stamens (synoecious)
    Spikelet axis tip
    there is no extension of the spikelet axis beyond the tip of the spikelet
    Spikelet disintegration
    the spikelet breaks off above the glumes, so that after the florets fall off, the glumes remain
    Spikelet length
    9–15 mm
    Spikelet number per node
    Up to 0
    Spikelet pedicel
    the spikelets have pedicels
    Spikelet pedicel length
    15–50 mm
    Spikelet position
    the spikelets emerge mainly from the upper halves of the inflorescence branches
    Spikelet shape
    • the spikelets are lanceolate (lance-shaped, widest below the middle and tapering narrowly to the ends) in profile
    • the spikelets are oblanceolate (lance-shaped, but with the widest point above the middle) in profile
    Spikelet width
    At least 1 mm
    Spikelets per panicle branch
    1–2
    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 length
    9–15 mm
    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
  • Fruits or seeds
    Groove on seed
    the caryopsis does not have a groove on it
    Seed length
    3.5–6 mm
  • Growth form
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Rhizomes
    no
    Roots
    there are only slender roots on the plant
  • Leaves
    Leaf auricles
    the leaves do not have auricles
    Leaf basal lobe hairy
    NA
    Leaf blade cross-section
    • the leaf blade is clearly folded or rolled inwards
    • the leaf blade is more or less flat in cross-section, or slightly folded or rolled inwards
    Leaf blade hairs
    the leaf blade is hairless, but it may have tiny prickles that give it a sand-papery feel
    Leaf blade length
    8–30 cm
    Leaf blade texture
    • the leaf blade is rough and sandpapery
    • the leaf blade is smooth, or it may have soft hairs
    Leaf blade width
    0.5–3 mm
    Leaf ligule length
    0.4–3.3 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 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
    Orientation of topmost leaf
    the flag leaf is held upright, or at less than a 45 degree angle out from the stem
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Massachusetts
    • Rhode Island
    Specific habitat
    • cliffs, balds, or ledges
    • ridges or ledges
    • woodlands
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Hairs at nodes
    the stem nodes are hairless or they have very sparse hairs
    Plant height
    30–100 cm
    Stem hairs
    the stem is nearly to completely hairless
    Stem node number
    2–3
    Stem orientation
    the stems are upright
    Stem spacing
    the stems grow close together in compact clusters or tufts

Wetland Status

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

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

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

Conservation Status

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

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR), #NAME? (code: #NAME?)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Piptatherum racemosum

Synonyms

  • Stipa avenacea L.

Family

Poaceae

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Piptochaetium avenaceum (L.) Parodi N

black-seeded spear grass. Stipa avenacea L. • CT, MA, RI. Sandy and/or rocky woodlands 
and openings.