Sporobolus heterolepis Gray

prairie dropseed

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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 dropseed is common in the Great Plains and Midwest but a rare native of New England, where it is known from Connecticut and Massachusetts. The dense tufts of narrow leaves make this a distinctively decorative grass popular in ornamental gardens. The Ojibwa made a poultice of the crushed root for applying to sores.

Habitat

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

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
Leaf blade width
1.2–2.5 mm
Inflorescence branches
the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
Spikelet length
3–6 mm
Glume relative length
both glumes are as long or longer than all of the florets
Awn on glume
  • the glume has an awn
  • the glume has no awn
One or more florets
there is one floret per spikelet
Lemma awn length
0 mm
Leaf ligule length
0.1–0.3 mm
Anther length
1.7–3 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    1.7–3 mm
    Anther number
    2–3
    Awn on glume
    • the glume has an awn
    • the glume has no awn
    Floret types within spikelet
    all the florets within a spikelet are similar
    Glume relative length
    both glumes are as long or longer than all of the florets
    Glume veins
    • 0
    • 1
    Inflorescence arrangement
    the spikelets are uniform
    Inflorescence axis orientation
    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
    50–250 mm
    Inflorescence length to width ratio
    2.3–8.3
    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
    6–110 mm
    Lemma awn base
    NA
    Lemma awn length
    0 mm
    Lemma awn number
    the lemma has no awn
    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 a simple point, with or without an awn (long narrow extension ending in a point)
    Lemma vein number
    1
    One or more florets
    there is one floret per spikelet
    Palea relative length
    • palea is longer than lemma
    • 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 length
    3–6 mm
    Spikelets spiny
    the spikelets do not appear spiny
    Upper glume shape
    the upper glume is widest at or below the middle
  • Growth form
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Rhizomes
    no
  • Leaves
    Leaf auricles
    the leaves do not have auricles
    Leaf blade width
    1.2–2.5 mm
    Leaf ligule length
    0.1–0.3 mm
    Leaf ligule type
    the leaf ligule is in the form of fine hairs
    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 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
    Specific habitat
    • cliffs, balds, or ledges
    • ridges or ledges
    • woodlands
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    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
absent
Vermont
absent

Conservation Status

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

Connecticut
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)
Massachusetts
historical (S-rank: SH), #NAME? (code: #NAME?)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Sporobolus cryptandrus

Synonyms

  • Vilfa heterolepis Gray

Family

Poaceae

Genus

Sporobolus

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

5.  Sporobolus heterolepis (Gray) Gray NC

prairie dropseed. Vilfa heterolepis Gray • CT, MA. Thin soils and exposed ledges of woodlands ridges, often on trap rock.