Milium effusum (Wood Millet)

Plant Info
Also known as: Woodland Millet Grass, American Millet Grass, Tall Millet
Family:Poaceae (Grass)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; average to moist; rich woods, floodplain forest, talus slopes, swamp margins, river banks, trail edges
Fruiting season:July - August
Plant height:2 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
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

[photo of panicles] Open, loose, branching cluster at the top of the stem, pyramidal in outline, 4 to 8 inches long, with usually 2 or 3 branches per node. Branches are up to 2½ inches long, spreading to drooping, with 2 or more spikelets (flower clusters) per branch. Spikelets are stalked, lance-elliptic in outline, 3 to 4 mm (to 1/6 inch) long, light green at flowering time and have a single floret.

[close-up of branches] At the base of a spikelet is a pair of bracts (glumes), both about equal in size and shape, hairless but slightly rough-textured from minute teeth, 3-veined, 3 to 4 mm long, egg-shaped with a blunt to pointed tip. Florets are surrounded by a pair of bracts (lemma and palea), both shiny, firmer than the glumes, pointed at the tip and as long as the glumes, the lemma 5-veined and rolled under along the edges, covering the edges of the palea.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 4 to 12 inches long, 5 to 15 mm (to ~½ inch) wide, spreading to ascending, flat, rough textured along the edges and sometimes along the veins.

[photo of sheath, ligule and node] The sheath is hairless, smooth to slightly rough. The ligule (membrane where the leaf joins the sheath) is 3 to 10 mm long, ragged or toothed along the top edge and lacks a fringe of hairs. Nodes are smooth. Stems are hairless, smooth to slightly rough, unbranched, erect or prostrate from the base then rising near the tip (decumbent), single or multiple from the base, forming loose clumps and may form loose colonies.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed_without_plume

[photo of spikelet and mature floret] The glumes become pale brown as grains mature, lemma and palea turning darker brown. Florets drop off individually leaving the glumes behind on the stalk. Grains (seeds) are elliptic, 2 to 3 mm long.


Wood Millet is an occasional to common grass in deciduous and mixed forests in about half of Minnesota. It is tall and elegant with its loose, droopy panicle, distinguished by the awnless, single-flowered spikelets 3 to 4 mm long with a lemma and palea that are shiny brown at maturity, flat leaves up to 15 mm (½ inch) wide, ligule up to 10 mm long (upper ligules often about 5 mm), hairless overall and forming loose clumps with 1 to a few flowering stems. Milium effusum is a circumpolar species with two varieties: var. effusum is the European native not known to be in North America; var. cisatlanticum is the North American counterpart. A cultivar with yellow foliage, M. effusum 'Aureum', is widely available in the garden trade but the straight species is just as attractive.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Spangle Creek Labs - Native orchids, lab propagated
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Landscape Alternatives
  • ReWild Native Gardens

More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook County and in his garden.


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.


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.