Elymus hystrix (Bottlebrush Grass)
|Also known as:||Eastern Bottlebrush Grass|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; average to moist soil; hardwood or mixed forest, woodland edges, river banks, floodplains|
|Fruiting season:||July - September|
|Plant height:||2 to 5 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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A single, loose spike at the tip of the stem, up to 8 inches long, usually erect, sometimes nodding. Spikelets (flower clusters) are usually in pairs, occasionally in 3s, alternately arranged along the central stalk, widely spreading to nearly perpendicular to the stalk. Spikelets are 1 to 2 inches long from tip to tip, each spikelet with 2 to 4 florets; the upper floret(s) may be sterile. Fertile florets have pale yellow stamens and a white, feathery style.
At the base of a spikelet is a pair of bracts (glumes), though one or both may be absent. Glumes are mostly reduced and bristle-like, up to 15mm (½ inch) long. At the base of a floret is a pair of bracts (lemma and palea). A fertile lemma is 8 to 11 mm long, smooth, rough textured or finely hairy on the surface, the tip extending into a straight awn up to 1½ inches long. Sterile lemmas are smaller than fertile lemmas, with short awns. Paleas are similar in size and shape as the lemmas but lack the awns and are mostly blunt at the tip.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are evenly spaced all along the stem, blue-green to gray-green, flat and mostly floppy, the lower up to 12 inches long and up to about ½ inch wide, the uppermost shorter and slightly stiffer. Surfaces are hairless to sparsely hairy.
The sheath is open, forming a long “V” at the front, is usually hairless, sometimes sparsely hairy. The ligule (membrane where the leaf joins the sheath) is about 1 mm long, straight or ragged along the top edge. Often, at the edge of the sheath where it meets the ligule is an oblong lobe (auricle). Sheaths, ligules and auricles are often purplish brown. Nodes are hairless, green to purplish, sometimes with a white, waxy bloom. Stems are hairless, unbranched, typically erect, single or a few from the base forming small, loose clumps.
Bottlebrush Grass is a tall, shade-tolerant grass and does very well in a home garden. The unique spike arrangement makes it easily recognizable. Two varieties are recognized in some references, differentiated by hairy or smooth lemmas and leaves, though they aren't distinguished in Minnesota.
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- Bottlebrush Grass plants
- garden grown Bottlebrush Grass
- flowering spikes
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County, and in her garden in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey County.
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