Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench

sorghum

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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

Sorghum is an important tropical cereal, native to Africa and widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical Africa and Asia. It was introduced to North America during the slave trade. There are two subspecies in New England. The more frequent (Sorghum bicolor ssp. bicolor) is derived from the cultivated strain, and is found in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. The other subspecies (S. bicolor ssp. drummondii) is derived from a hybrid event, and has been collected only in Massachusetts.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), meadows and fields

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf blade width
5–100 mm
Inflorescence branches
the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
Spikelet length
3–7 mm
Glume relative length
both glumes are as long or longer than all of the florets
One or more florets
there is one floret per spikelet
Lemma awn length
5–30 mm
Leaf sheath hair type
  • there are hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath, but the hairs do not have blisters at their bases
  • there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
Leaf ligule length
1–4 mm
Anther length
2–2.8 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    2–2.8 mm
    Anther number
    3
    Floret lower bract texture
    the lemma is thin and flexible
    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
    • 7 or more
    Inflorescence arrangement
    the plant has two types of spikelets with different reproductive structures
    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
    50–600 mm
    Inflorescence type (general)
    the spikelets are borne on stalks or on branches
    Inflorescence type (specific)
    the inflorescence has pairs (or trios) of spikelets, but with one always either missing a stalk or on a shorter stalk than the other
    Lemma awn base
    the awn is attached right at the tip of the lemma
    Lemma awn length
    5–30 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 tip
    the lemma tip is split into two or more points
    Lemma vein number
    • 1
    • 3
    One or more florets
    there is one floret per spikelet
    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
    3–7 mm
    Spikelet shape
    • the spikelets are elliptic (widest in the middle, tapering to the ends) in profile
    • the spikelets are lanceolate (lance-shaped, widest below the middle and tapering narrowly to the ends) in profile
    • the spikelets are oblong (rectangular, but with rounded ends) in profile
    Spikelets spiny
    the spikelets do not appear spiny
  • Growth form
    Horizontal rooting stem
    no
    Lifespan
    the plant lives only a single year or less
    Rhizomes
    no
    Roots
    there are only slender roots on the plant
  • Leaves
    Leaf auricles
    the leaves do not have auricles
    Leaf blade width
    5–100 mm
    Leaf ligule length
    1–4 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 hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath, but the hairs do not have blisters at their bases
    • there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    Leaf sheath hairs
    • there are hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    • there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Massachusetts
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Stem orientation
    the stems are upright
    Stem spacing
    the stems grow singly or a few together (they may form diffuse colonies)

Wetland Status

Occurs only in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: UPL)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
absent
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
absent
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. bicolor

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

ssp. drummondii

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

No

Sometimes Confused With

Sorghum halepense

Synonyms

  • Holcus bicolor L.
  • Holcus sorghum L.
  • Sorghum vulgare Pers.
  • Sorghum vulgare Pers. var. technicum (Koern.) Jáv.

Family

Poaceae

Genus

Sorghum

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench E

sorghum.  1a. Holcus bicolor L.; H. sorghum L.; Sorghum vulgare Pers.; S. vulgare Pers. var. technicum (Koern.) Jáv.;  1b. Andropogon drummondii Nees ex Steud.; Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench var. drummondii (Nees ex Steud.) Mohlenbrock; S. bicolor (L.) Moench var. sudanense (Piper) A.S. Hitchc.; S. drummondii (Nees ex Steud.) Millsp. & Chase; S. sudanense (Piper) Stapf; S. vulgare Pers. var. drummondii (Nees ex Steud.) Hack. ex Chiov. • CT, MA, RI, VT; also reported from ME by Campbell et al. (1995), but specimens are unknown. Fields, disturbed soil, areas 
of cultivation.

1a.  Rames remaining intact at maturity; sessile spikelets 3–9 mm long, ellipsoid to obloid; caryopses exposed at maturity … 1a. S. bicolor ssp. bicolor

1b.  Rames tardily disarticulating at maturity; sessile spikelets 5–6 (–7) mm long, lanceoloid 
to ellipsoid; caryopses not exposed at maturity 
 … 1b. S. bicolor ssp. drummondii (Nees ex Steud.) de Wet & Harlan

Subspecies bicolor is known from CT, MA, RI, VT. It is a cultivated strain that is derived from 
 S. bicolor ssp. arundinaceum (Desv.) de Wet & Harlan. Subspecies drummondii is known 
from MA. It represents hybrid derivatives of S. bicolor ssp. arundinaceum and ssp. bicolor.