Eragrostis frankii (Sandbar Lovegrass)
|Also known as:||Frank's Lovegrass|
|Habitat:||sun; moist soil; along streams and rivers, roadsides|
|Fruiting season:||July - October|
|Plant height:||8 to 18 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Open but fairly compact, branching cluster, taller than wide, up to 7½ inches tall and 3½ inches wide, oblong-elliptic in outline and widest in the middle, with spreading to ascending branches. Spikelets (flower clusters) are light green, very small, 1 to 1.5 mm wide, variable in length with 2 to 5 (9) florets, typically only 2 or 3.
At the base of a spikelet is a pair of bracts (glumes) that are light green becoming translucent, lance-like with a pointed tip, 1-veined, keeled on the back, the lower glume 1 to 1.5 mm long, the upper glume up to 1.8 mm long. Surrounding a floret are a pair of bracts (lemma and palea), light green becoming translucent, the lemmas as long as the upper glume or nearly so, more broadly oval lance shaped, folded along the keel, 3-veined. Keels have minute, stiff, rough hairs (scabrous) especially toward the tip, and lack glands.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are alternate, flat, 1½ to 5½ inches long, 1/8 to ¼ inch wide, surfaces mostly hairless, lower surface smooth, upper surface rough. Sheaths are typically longer than the internodes, mostly smooth with few hairs around upper opening. The ligule (membrane where the leaf joins the sheath) is a fringe of white hairs. Nodes are smooth, often with glandular pits below the node but may be hidden by the sheaths. Stems are smooth, multiple from the base, repeatedly branching near the base, often prostrate at the base and sharply angled from the lower node (geniculate) and erect to ascending above.
Spikelets mature quickly, the mature grains (seeds) falling away individually along with the lemma, leaving the paleas and glumes behind persisting on the stalk. The grain is a rich translucent golden brown with a textured surface, more or less spherical to slightly oblong, about .5mm in diameter.
Sandbar Lovegrass is not very common or widespread in Minnesota. At the northwest edge of its range, its few collections have been from the Metro down through our southeastern counties. As its common name suggests, its preferred habitat is moist sandbars of rivers, though it can persist and become weedy if introduced in disturbed human habitats such as gardens. It is densely tufted in appearance and of the other lovegrasses found in MN, at a glance it is most similar to Tufted Lovegrass, (Eragrostis pectinacea), which is found throughout the state in disturbed areas everywhere, often in continuous populations along major highways. Not only is it generally larger than Sandbar Lovegrass, among other differing characteristics, the spikelets are much longer with consistently more florets, typically 7 to 9, where Sandbar Lovegrass has 5 or fewer, typically 2 or 3.
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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Houston county.
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