Eragrostis trichodes (Sand Lovegrass)
|Also known as:|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; dry, sandy soil; prairies, railroads, roadsides, open woods|
|Fruiting season:||September - November|
|Plant height:||2 to 5 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Open branching cluster generally taller than wide when fully expanded, up to 20 inches tall and 12 inches wide with widely spreading to ascending branches. Branches are straight, diverging multiple times off the central stalk (rachis), green to reddish purple, rough textured, occasionally with a few long, straight white hairs in the branch axils but usually not. At the tip of each branchlet is a spikelet (flower cluster), usually purplish, slightly flattened, 3 to 15 mm (to ~½ inch) long, 1.5 to 3.6 mm wide with 4 to 18 florets, usually less than 10; the floret at the tip is often sterile.
At the base of a spikelet is a pair of bracts (glumes) that are nearly equal in size, 1.8 to 4.5 mm long, egg-shaped with a pointed tip and 1-veined. Florets are each surrounded by a pair of bracts (lemma and palea), the lemma mostly shorter than the glumes, 2.2 to 3.5 mm long, lance to egg-shaped with a pair of prominent lateral veins, a pointed tip, and rough along the keel; the palea is thin, transparent whitish, shorter and narrower than the lemma and minutely fringed along the 2 veins.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are mostly basal, 6 to 16 inches long, 1 to 8 mm (to ~1/3 inch) wide, flat or the edges rolled in (involute), both surfaces hairless except for sparse long hairs on the lower quarter of the upper surface. The sheath is open, hairless or with sparse, long hairs along the edges, and with a dense tuft of long, white hairs at the tip. The ligule (membrane where the leaf blade joins the sheath) is a fringe of hairs about .5 mm long. Nodes are hairless.
Spikelets mature in late summer through fall, the mature grains (seeds) falling away individually along with the lemma, leaving the paleas and glumes behind persisting on the stalk, but they, too eventually fall off. The grain is golden to reddish brown, round to squarish, slightly flattened, .8 to 1.5 mm long, with a distinct groove on one side.
Sand Lovegrass is not very common or widespread in Minnesota, native from Illinois to Nebraska south and is considered adventive here. As its common name suggests, its preferred habitat is sandy soil; in its native range is found in prairies, open woods, rocky slopes and roadsides. Of the other lovegrasses known to be in MN, the panicle is most similar to the more common Purple Lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis), which is a much shorter plant with hairier sheaths, the panicle consistently has tufts of hair in the branch axils, and the entire panicle breaks off tumbleweed-style when mature.
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Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Afton State Park.
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