Puccinellia nuttalliana (Nuttall's Alkaligrass)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Puccinellia
Family:Poaceae (Grass)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:sun; wet saline soil; prairies, ditches, swales
Fruiting season:July - August
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: panicle Cluster type: spike

[photo of panicle] Panicle 1 to 8 inches long, usually oval to pyramidal in outline, the branches mostly spreading with the lower branches spreading to ascending, and branchlets appressed to the branch; occasionally the lowest branches are reflexed, and all branches may become erect and appressed to the stem in fruit. Spikelets (flower clusters) are overlapping on the tip half to 2/3 of a branch, green to purplish at flowering time, flattened, oblong to lance-elliptic, 3 to 7 mm (to ~1/3 inch) long with 2 to 7 florets; the uppermost floret may be sterile.

[photo of branch and spikelet] At the base of a spikelet is a pair of bracts (glumes) that are both blunt to pointed at the tip, awnless, hairless, light green to purplish with transparent whitish edging, obscurely veined, the lower glume .5 to 1.5 mm long, the upper glume 1.5 to 2.8 mm long. Surrounding a floret is a pair of bracts (lemma and palea), the lemma 2 to 3.5 mm long, longer than the upper glume, green to purplish, obscurely veined, the tip transparent whitish and blunt to pointed; the palea is about as long as the lemma. The thickened base of the floret (callus) is sparsely covered in short hairs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of sheath, ligule and node] Leaves are mostly basal with with 2 to 4 alternate leaves mostly on the lower half of the stem. Leaves are up to 4 inches long, 1 to 4 mm wide, hairless, rough-textured, flat though may become rolled along the edges (involute) with age. The sheath is hairless. The ligule (membrane where the leaf blade joins the sheath) is 1 to 3 mm long, somewhat triangular, usually pointed at the tip, and lacks a fringe of hairs. Nodes are smooth.

[photo of leaf clump] Stems are hairless, unbranched, usually erect, occasionally prostrate from the base and rising from the lower node (genticulare), and multiple from the base forming clumps.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of florets and grain] Spikelets dry to light brown at maturity. Individual florets drop away when mature, leaving the glumes behind persisting on the stalk. The grain (seed) is elliptic, brown, up to about 1.5 mm long.

Notes:

Nuttall's Alkaligrass is a native grass of wet, saline grasslands, found in Minnesota's western counties where it reaches the eastern edge of its natural range; it is mostly considered adventive east of Minnesota. It is somewhat variable, but generally distinguished by hairless leaves and sheaths; ligule 1 to 3 mm long, more or less triangular and pointed at the tip; panicle branches spreading to erect, branchlets appressed to the branch, the lowest branches only occasionally reflexed, and all branches may be erect in fruit; spikelets without awns, green to purplish at flowering time with 2 to 7 florets; glumes unequal, lemmas 2 to 3.5 mm long, the tips thin, whitish, blunt to pointed at the tip.

Most similar is the related, non-native Weeping Alkaligrass (Puccinellia distans), which tends to be a smaller plant more often with decubment stems, has panicle branches spreading with the lowest branches usually reflexed, ligules usually less than 2 mm long and straight across to somewhat convex at the tip, and lemmas usually less than 2 mm long that are ragged and straight across to broadly rounded at the tip.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Minnesota Native Plant Society

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Landscape Alternatives - Distinctive Native Plants since 1986!
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at PrairieMoon.com!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds

More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Kittson and Pennington counties.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.



(required)




Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.