Spartina pectinata Link

prairie cordgrass

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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

Prairie cordgrass grows on river and lake shores and freshwater marshes, as well as the upper edges of salt marshes. It is one of the tallest grasses in North America, and an important species of tallgrass prairies in the Midwest, growing mainly in wet depressions. The Omaha and Ponca peoples used prairie cordgrass as thatching to support the earthen coverings of lodges.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), brackish or salt marshes and flats, fresh tidal marshes or flats, marshes, meadows and fields, shores of rivers or lakes, wetland margins (edges of wetlands)

Characteristics

Habitat
  • aquatic
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf blade width
5–15 mm
Inflorescence branches
the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
Spikelet length
10–25 mm
Glume relative length
both glumes are as long or longer than all of the florets
Awn on glume
the glume has an awn
One or more florets
there is one floret per spikelet
Lemma awn length
0 mm
Leaf ligule length
1–3 mm
Anther length
4–6 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    4–6 mm
    Anther number
    3
    Awn on glume
    the glume has an awn
    Bristles below spikelets
    no
    Floret lower bract texture
    the lemma is thin and flexible
    Floret number
    1
    Floret types within spikelet
    all the florets within a spikelet are similar
    Glume awn length
    3–8 mm
    Glume keel
    the glume keels are rough or hairy
    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
    Glumes per spikelet
    2
    Inflorescence arrangement
    the spikelets are uniform
    Inflorescence axis hairs
    • the inflorescence axis is rough and feels like sand-paper
    • the inflorescence axis is smooth and has no hairs
    Inflorescence axis orientation
    the inflorescence axis is straight
    Inflorescence branch length
    1.5–15 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
    1
    Inflorescence crowding
    the panicle is somewhat to very spread out, with clearly-evident branches
    Inflorescence length
    100–500 mm
    Inflorescence type (general)
    the spikelets are borne on stalks or on branches
    Inflorescence type (specific)
    the inflorescence is branched and the branches all grow from the same side of the plant and look like spikes
    Inforescence position
    the spikelets are mainly carried at the end of the stem
    Lemma awn base
    NA
    Lemma awn coiled
    NA
    Lemma awn length
    0 mm
    Lemma awn number
    the lemma has no awn
    Lemma awn orientation
    NA
    Lemma base hair length
    0 mm
    Lemma base hairs
    the lemma is hairless or feels just a tiny bit rough at the base
    Lemma cross-section
    the lemma is V-shaped if you cut across the midpoint
    Lemma hairs
    the lemma is hairless 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 is hairless
    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
    Lower glume length
    5–10 mm
    Lower glume relative length
    the lower glume is one third to three quarters as long as the upper glume
    One or more florets
    there is one floret per spikelet
    Palea length
    8–9 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 length
    0 mm
    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
    10–25 mm
    Spikelet number per node
    0
    Spikelet pedicel
    the spikelets do not have pedicels
    Spikelet pedicel length
    0 mm
    Spikelet position
    the spikelets emerge from both the upper and lower halves of the inflorescence branches
    Spikelets per panicle branch
    10–80
    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
    7–17 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
  • 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
    Basal leaves
    the plant has few or no leaves coming from the base of the flowering stem
    Leaf auricles
    the leaves do not have auricles
    Leaf basal lobe hairy
    NA
    Leaf blade cross-section
    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
    20–96 cm
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is rough and sandpapery
    Leaf blade width
    5–15 mm
    Leaf ligule length
    1–3 mm
    Leaf ligule type
    the leaf ligule is in the form of a membrane with fine hairs
    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 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
    • brackish or salt marshes and flats
    • edges of wetlands
    • fresh tidal marshes or flats
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • marshes
    • meadows or fields
    • shores of rivers or lakes
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Hairs at nodes
    the stem nodes are hairless or they have very sparse hairs
    Plant height
    100–250 cm
    Stem hairs
    the stem is nearly to completely hairless
    Stem orientation
    the stems are upright
    Stem spacing
    the stems grow close together in compact clusters or tufts
    Stem thickness at base
    2.5–11 mm

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

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

Maine
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Spartina alterniflora:
leaves smooth or slightly scabrous along apical margins and rhizome white when fresh (vs. S. pectinata, with leaves prominently scabrous and rhizome light brown to purple-brown when fresh).

Synonyms

  • Spartina pectinata var. suttiei (Farw.) Fern.

Family

Poaceae

Genus

Spartina

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

4.  Spartina pectinata Link N

prairie cordgrass. Spartina pectinata (Ait.) Muhl. var. suttiei (Farw.) Fern. • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. River and lake shores, roadsides, fresh water marshes, upper edge of saline and brackish marshes, low areas in fields.

3×4. Spartina patens × Spartina pectinata Spartina ×‌caespitosa A.A. Eat. is a rare hybrid that grows in disturbed saline and brackish marshes. It is highly variable due to its polyphyletic origin. It usually demonstrates the few and short panicle branches, short ligules, and involute leaf blades of S. patens; however, the rhizomes (when present) are usually purple-brown and 
have closely imbricate scales and the spikelets are 10–17 mm long (vs. white rhizomes with non-imbricate scales and spikeletes 7–12 mm in S. patens). This nothospecies 
often has a cespitose habit, unlike any other Spartina in New England. It is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI.