Eragrostis minor (Little Lovegrass)
|Also known as:||Smaller Stinkgrass|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; sandy or gravelly soil; roadsides, railroads, old fields, waste areas|
|Fruiting season:||September - November|
|Plant height:||2 to 24 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Panicles are compact to loose, 2 to 8 inches long, egg-shaped to narrowly pyramidal in outline. Spikelets (flower clusters) are spreading, short-stalked, green to purple, flattened, lance-oblong, 4 to 11 mm (to .4 inch) long, up to 2 mm wide with 6 to 16 florets, rarely longer with up to 40 florets. One or more florets at the tip may be sterile. Often there is a warty gland on the branchlet just below a spikelet.
At the base of a spikelet is a pair of bracts (glumes) that are both similar, lance to egg-shaped, 1-veined, 1 to 1.7 mm long, and may have 1 or 2 glands along the keel. Surrounding a floret is a pair of bracts (lemma and palea), the lemma round to egg-shaped, 1.5 to 2 mm long, slightly longer than the glumes, 3 veined with prominent lateral veins, and may have 1 or 2 glands along the keel; the palea is nearly as long as the lemma, translucent whitish and 2-veined, lacking glands.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are alternate and basal, flat, up to 4 inches long, 1 to 4 mm (to 1/6 inch) wide, hairless or with sparse long hairs, and usually with glands along the edges and sometimes along the midvein. The sheath is open with sparse, long hairs along the edges, often also on the surface, and with denser 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 smooth usually with a ring of glands below each node.
Individual grains (seeds) drop away independently along with the lemma, leaving the palea and glumes behind persisting on the stalk, though they eventually drop off, too. The grain is golden to brown, oval-elliptic with a textured surface, .4 to .8 mm long and not grooved.
Little Lovegrass is an occasional weed of roadsides, waste places, and other areas of disturbed soils but is likely under-reported in Minnesota. It somewhat resembles some other Eragrostis species but is distinguished by its glands seen on leaf edges, just below stem nodes, on panicle branchlets just below most spikelets, and along the keels of at least some lemmas and glumes, though magnification is recommended to see them. Gland color ranges from yellowish to greenish to purplish to grayish. It most closely resembles Stink Grass (Eragrostis cilianensis), which is similarly glandular, but is distinguished by mature spikelets over 2 mm wide and sheaths that are essentially hairless on the surface where E. minor spikelets are usually under 2 mm wide and sheaths are usually at least sparsely hairy along the edges and/or the surface.
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Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Crow Wing and Traverse counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?